Thank you Mauricio, the Isla(nd) of Inter bliss.
I could find no better way to open this article. I tried. Not too hard, but I tried. When faced with the sad reality of the unstoppable gears of fate (that is, even when Inter play poorly they still manage to win), imagination tends to leaves its place to facility. Writing facility in this case, and all its associated bad puns.
In seriousness though, if Sunday’s win vs. Udinese doesn’t virtually clinch the Nerazzurri’s 17th Scudetto for you, you must still believe in fairy tales. And to make matters worse for Juve (as if their 3-3 draw vs. Chievo earlier in the day wasn’t enough) is that Inter’s winning goal didn’t come from one of the many superstars at José Mourinho’s disposal. No. It came from an Udinese player.
Poor Isla. In the day where, due to his team’s injury problems, he was forced to backtrack to the defensive line (he’s a midfielder), he ended up being the unlikely and unfortunate protagonist for his opponents, as well as the annihilator of all the good work (and many scoring chances) obtained by the Bianconeri in the first 60 minutes.
Tactically, Mourinho put Santon back in his old right-back position, with Maxwell on the other side and Chivu-Cordoba in the middle. After many injuries, the Portuguese manager was finally able to select a line-up that (on paper at least) was close to the ideal. The reality however, was that the Udinese players were pointing their nose in front of Julio Cesar far too often, especially when one considers this match pitted the best defence of Serie A against a team with almost half the points in the standings.
Without a doubt, the best chances of the first half belonged entirely to Udinese. The Bianconeri were making full use of Kwadwo Asamoah‘s runs (at 20 years of age, keep an eye on this Ghanaian youngster) and D’Agostino’s playmaking. If only Marino had strikers just a little more cynical than Pepe, Floro Flores, and Quagliarella (who nonetheless forced Julio Cesar to a real super-save), his side would certainly have ended the first half in the lead. Especially since Inter’s plays seemed to be in slow-motion, limiting themselves to a single chance worthy of that name by Muntari, his shot only missing the target by inches.
The second half script was pretty much the same: Udinese attacking, Inter resisting. First, Cordoba closed down Quagliarella after a good Pepe through ball, then Inler fired his usual howitzer of the week (narrowly wide), immediately followed by Quagliarella yet again, who called Inter’s keeper into action. It seemed only a matter of time before the deadlock would be broken… and so it was. In the most unpredictable of fashions.
Halfway through the second half (min. 65), Stankovic was just wide with a chance created by Balotelli and Ibrahimovic. Twelve minutes later Inter were in the lead, accepting Isla’s kind gift. The suicidal deflection by the Chilean midfielder (turned defender for the occasion), who challenged Vieira’s run in the box after yet another excellent Zlatan-through ball, was as clumsy as it was unlucky (although to be honest, there would have been a clear penalty on Vieira had the ball not gone in). And with the three championship points that came with it, the goal allayed the concern caused by the injury to Julio Cesar, replaced by Toldo 18 minutes from the end.
Before the match was over, Inter opened up and created a couple of dangerous situations thanks to corners taken by Figo and finalized by Ibrahimovic (just wide). There was room for Udinese to score the equaliser, but Obodo’s header from Asamoah’s cross was poor, going over the bar. The scoreline stayed stuck on 1-0, sealing win number 22 in the Serie A for Inter and giving then a 9-point lead over Juventus with 8 rounds to play. Isla’s own goal will not only be remembered for a long time in Udine, but also at Appiano Gentile.
|GOALSCORERS: 77’ Isla o.g. (I).
| UDINESE (4-3-3): Belardi – Isla, Zapata, Felipe, Pasquale – Inler (83’ Obodo), D’Agostino, Asamoah – Pepe, Quagliarella, Floro Flores (85’ Ighalov). (bench: Koprivec, Sala, Sissoko, Zimling, Bradaschia). Coach: Marino
| INTER (4-3-1-2): Julio Cesar (73’ Toldo), Santon (69’ Vieira), Córdoba, Chivu, Maxwell – J.Zanetti, Cambiasso, Muntari – Stankovic – Balotelli (69’ Figo), Ibrahimovic. (bench: Samuel, Materazzi, Cruz, Crespo). Coach: Mourinho.