Udinese is always a tough nut to crack for us, but they shouldn’t have been this time. As the announcer on FSC said during the game, "Inter looks the stronger and the more technical side." We spent the entire game camped out on the Udinese half taking shots. The fact that only 2 went in and that there weren’t opportunities for more is a bit of a let down. On the other hand, I’ll take being the obviously better team.
Despite essentially playing on half the field we still had moments that caused us discomfort. Udinese is good on the break and playing an 8-2 formation and triple teaming Eto’o gave them opportunities to counter.
However much our rivals don’t want to acknowledge it, we have excellent players too. We had several players who throughout the match dragged and pulled the team forward and continuously put pressure on Udinese to good effect: Cambiasso, Eto’o, Balotelli and Stankovic.
But there was one player who earns my Inter Player of the Match:
What’s his name again…?
Highlights after the break
Stats Home team first:
Shots (on Goal): 22(7), 13(4)
Fouls: 15, 18
Corner Kicks: 4, 3
Offsides: 2, 2
Time of Possession: 58% 43%
Yellow Cards: 2, 4
Red Cards: 0, 0
Saves: 3, 5
Don’t think you read that right? Yep, you did. We were in their half about 55% of the game, took 22 shots - half of which I am certain went over the bar – and were the cleaner team both in fouls and in cards…. more on this later…
Cesar: Julio, as usual, played very well and came up with 2 very good saves. The goal wasn’t his fault as he was one v one with DiNatale and will be discussed further a little lower. Other than the goal, he managed his area well. 7
Chivu: Totally at fault for the goal. He lagged behind keeping DiNatale onsides. He played poorly in general also picking up a ridiculously stupid yellow card. I was thoroughly disgusted with his game today. I know that he has his fans here but he should have been subbed at the half for Santon. 5
Lucio: Lucio played pretty well and pushed up a lot. He had a nice header on goal in the first half, but at times I thought that he pushed up too far. All in all, I think he played a pretty solid game but looked a little gimpy when he came off. 6
Samuel: As with Lucio I thought that he played a solid game, which is a little misleading. These two probably comprise the best center back pairing in Serie A, so to say that they were solid means that they really gave up only 1 or 2 real goal scoring opportunities, which is exactly what they did. Samuel I thought handled the Udinese forwards better than Lucio did and played slightly better. 6.5
Zanetti: First let me get this out of the way, I thought Zanetti had a solid game. Okay, having said that, I think that his days as a fullback who overlaps are over, especially if he has to go after players like Sanchez and Pepe. A midfielder who switches back or a deep playing, defensive fullback is his role on the team. Not that I am saying that he can’t play, but he has to acknowledge – as we do – that he’s not as quick as he/we thinks he is. Solid game, but there were issues. 6
Stankovic: Everyone that I have read in the last 24 hours thinks that Stankovic had a great game. I am not one of those people, although I think he did very well. He certainly got hammered enough as he was kicked behind the leg, pushed while up for a header and forced to land on his tail bone, and elbowed in the face in a pretty vicious way. I should note that even though those were all bookable offenses, there wasn’t even a whistle on any one occurrence. This only made his goal all the more sweet tasting to me. He faded fast in the second half and I couldn’t understand why he kept shooting from 25+ meters out when he should have been feeding Eto’o or Mario. 7
Cambiasso: If there is a more likely candidate for our next Captain, I can’t see it. He can sniff out a pass or hound another player across the field and still have the energy to do it in minute 88 as enthusiastically as he did in minute 8. I absolutely loved his game yesterday. 8
Schm… Wes… Sneijder: Okay, 6 games in and we have equanimity, if not forgiveness. He played a hell of a game. He was all over the place; he attacked with a certain zigzaggy frenetic pace. He defended very well for a player that I was given to understand was pretty one dimensional. And he fed the forwards, which is something that drove me crazy last night. Why were other players… who have trouble scoring given perfect conditions taking wild, long range, terrible shots when Milito, Eto’o and Mario had to work like hell to make their own space? Sneijder made some nice passes that turned into very good chances for both Eto’o and Mario. He was rewarded when, what I still think was supposed to be a pass – a really great pass - went in. I can’t help but think about our record without him, as opposed to with him and how important that little bit of creativity is… maybe we should get a little more. 8.5
Muntari: No one should be wondering given my past history here if I think that Muntari is a good player. I still think he is. Did he play well last night? I think that his game was solid, until he tried to do what he isn’t good at. Did he destroy play in the midfield and defence last night? Yes, and he did it very well. Did he pass well? He did… when he made the easy, smart pass on the ground. When he tried to make crosses and disguise himself as a winger – which he isn’t – that’s when it all went a little hinkey. Was he able to attack the goal? Not at all. His shooting was horrible and he can’t head the ball on net ever. But then again, he really put in an incredible effort on 1 and ¾ legs as he is still injured. I bet that I am going to have to defend this critique even to the Muntari supporters here, but he wasn’t that bad frankly, there were other players last night who should have been booed… ahem, Chivu. 6
Milito: This is going to be another one that people are not going to like me for, but hey, that’s okay, feel free to disagree. I was really upset to see Milito out there. He should have taken advantage of the international break coming up and get healthy for the next 7 games. He came back too early. A 29 – 30 year old should know his body by now. Now he is gone for a month, when instead he could have been back the next game. 5
Eto’o: Yet another score that will get me in trouble but I have no problem with controversy. I liked the way Eto’o played last night, with the caveat that he made himself 3 good opportunities – he certainly wasn’t getting any support from 9 other player – and didn’t put one in. Oh yeah, he also assisted in the first goal – something that Deki should learn how to do when you have one of the most dangerous players on the planet playing in front of and slightly to the left of you. Eto’o had no problems dropping back to get the ball and pass it forward, passing to others who had better looks at the goal or taking shots that brought me out of my seat. Others may not like how he plays, but I do. 7
Balotelli: Came in for Milito in the first half after Milito discovered that he made a horrible, horrible, selfish mistake – possibly to the cost of future games. Mario was solid and had several moments of extremely good play. He was knocked down twice in the area - more on that later – and had several moments of creative flow with Sneijder. Those two work well together. We could use one more. 6.5
Suazo: Came in when Mourinho rightly tried to go for the win late in the second half. Didn’t do much, in fact, I don’t know that he took a shot. 5.5
Santon: Came on for Lucio in the second half. He didn’t have much to do, and he came on so late that I didn’t see if he and Chivu switched places, although in my mind that’s what basically happened. He wasn’t really called to action in the 4 minutes or so that he saw. N/A
Mourinho: We didn’t need to win this game because we lack the points; we needed this win to prove that the players that were injured from the midweek game were decisive enough to forgive the recent poor showing. We certainly showed that we were much more dominating with Sneijder than without him. I would argue that Muntari also made a positive difference in the match compared to midweek considering how many times he was able to win the ball and push forward. I would take Muntari over Vieira – more on that later – any day of the week and twice on Sundays (or Saturdays).
There are others on other Serie A Offsides blogs who would call us lucky for this win. Having actually watched the match, I would have said that Udinese would have been lucky to draw, which is exactly what would have happened if the stoppage time goal didn’t save what we pretty much deserved. We dominated this game, we dominated not just possession - which, to me, isn’t as useful statistic as where we had the possession while dominating it - but we also were in their area for a large fraction of that possession.
I thought that Mario played another very good game. He managed to do what we paraised him for 2 games ago and keep his temper in check, even though Udinese seemed as though they were intent on breaking his leg every time he touched the ball. They body checked him from behind in the area – he didn’t have the ball so no ref would make that call. They crushed his foot from behind with no intention of going for ball in what was an obvious stone cold penalty – one of two we could have gotten. I wrote 2 games ago when we played Sampdoria that we don’t get those calls and I am sad to say that I am proven right again. Maybe the ref saw the opposition’s jerseys and was confused which teams were on the field. The other stone cold penalty, by the way, was when the Udinese player, with his arm away from his body and over his head slapped down a pass inside the area. Yeah, that was “accidental”.
And I thought that Eto’o was amazing. I understand that others here didn’t like his game, and apparently you’re not alone as Inter.it’s vote in pagelle shows. But the guy had 3 defencemen – that’s not an exaggeration, I stopped my DVR several times to count - on him at all times, he still managed to make space, shoot and assist in at least one goal. All he needed was some help, and when none was forthcoming, he helped someone else. That just speaks volumes to me, as I always appreciated hardnosed, unselfish players.
This brings me to Patrick Vieira. I make no apology for what I think of Patrick. I think that he’s slow. I think that his reaction time can be measured in geological epochs. I think that his reading of the game is poor and I think that his passing skills are shocking. Having said all that, he also can’t add. He has played in more minutes than would be wise for so inept a player and he still has the nerve to complain. If Santon were to complain in such a way, I would be sympathetic, because I think that he could use and improve in the minutes afforded him. Vieira can only hurt us and, god willing, himself. That thing you see when he walks out the door would be my foot booting him out.
José Mourinho joined the Inter faithful in an eruption of celebration after watching Wesley Sneijder find the bottom corner deep in injury time against Udinese.
"Wesley's goal was a worth gold, one of those that kills off the match," said the Inter coach. "It was a goal that the team deserved because it played well. Sure, we had a few difficulties; we don't have Motta, and Sneijder returned today. Milito came off with a problem and some of the players were very tired at the end, even a lion like Lucio.
"It was a great game against a great team, and they could have won if Di Natale's touch at the end had gone in. I'm doubly happy with Wesley's goal because it gives Inter three points and because tomorrow they won't be talking about the penalty not given by the referee after the foul on Balotelli."
Mourinho went on to talk about the impact of his summer signings. "Milito is a fundamental player for us and for our game, just like Sneijder. Thanks to Wesley we have refound our game between the lines, which we didn't have in Genoa or in Kazan. Milito moves intelligently on the pitch but unfortunately he was forced off early tonight. The big teams need quality, mainly in attack, and I keep talking about Sneijder or Thiago Motta because no other player is like them on the pitch. We have missed them in our two matches without them. However, today was a victory of character. We believed until the end and we also had a bit of luck, like the referee too. On the other hand, Udinese were unlucky, but my team showed great character with the difficulties of the last 15-20 minutes."
The Nerazzurri rallied around Sulley Muntari when he was substituted in the second half after criticism from the crowd. "Sulley's team-mates were extraordinary with him, the team is a group," commented Mourinho. "Sulley is loved by his team-mates. I can only underline that Muntari was back on the pitch today and he did his job, even if he made a few mistakes. A player has to be strong and adapt. What is certain is that I will speak with Sulley so he doesn't have any problems the next time he returns to this stadium."
Wesley Sneijder reflected on his first goal for the Nerazzurri in an interview with Inter Channel after Saturday's 2-1 win over Udinese. "It was a difficult match and Udinese confirmed they are a good team, but we were stronger and the important thing was to win the three points," said the Dutch midfielder, who sealed victory deep in injury time. "I'm dedicating my first goal to my girlfriend, who is usually here, but she couldn't be here today because of work.
"We're all very happy with the victory. Each one of us will join our respective national teams now and it's nice to go into these games with this state of mind. I'm very happy with my performance, but even more with the victory of the entire group.
"Italian football? It can reach Spanish football, but there's work to be done. I have played too few matches in Italy to be able to give a proper reply, but I can say that it's a difficult competition and you have to improve every day."
Dejan Stankovic shrugged off knock after knock and rifled in the opening goal against Udinese before battling with his team-mates until Wesley Sneijder's winning goal deep in injury time.
"It was important to win tonight," the Serbian midfielder told Sky Sport Italia. "Udinese put us in difficulty in the first half but it went better in the second. We worked very hard and we don't have much energy, but what won through tonight was the group and the courage to not give up."
Muntari was the subject of criticism from the crowd before his substitution - a situation Stankovic found himself in several seasons ago. "I can understand Sulley," he said. "I went through it two years ago when I had a serious injury. I didn't have a good rapport with the crowd. I advise him to plug his ears, not give up and carry on."
After Saturday's 2-1 home win against Udinese, Esteban Cambiasso thanked Inter's medical staff for helping him make a speedy recovery from injury.
"I'm happy. If I count them, I still can't believe how many matches I have managed to play since my operation. I have to thank everyone who has helped me after the operation: professor Benazzo, doctor Combi, Massimo Della Casa, professor Rapetti and my wife. They have supported me, I wasn't expecting to play so soon."
On Inter's performance against Udinese, Cuchu added: "It was hard today. We had to work hard. Luckily, my leg responded well. Two minutes before Sneijder's goal Julio Cesar made a save that helped us win. We mustn't forget that we played in Russia a few days ago. It was a long trip and we used up a lot of energy."
Next up, International Break then Genoa.