Matchday 6 and the Champions League Group stage as a whole concluded today. Inter needed a win to make it to the next round. There were other permutations that were possible, but there was only one way to make sure that we advanced to the next round
Rubin must be defeated.
Good thing, for us, that’s exactly what happened.
The game was mostly Inter controlling the action in the field and Rubin Kazan countering us. This isn’t to say that they didn’t have their chances. They had two very good chances and were able to cross deep into our lines 2 or 3 more times.
Highlights and more after the break.
We were the definite protagonists here. In the first half Mario opened the shooting with a shot right at the keeper. After several minutes the game got rather bogged down again with some midfield mush.
That’s when Zanetti decided to take over. And let’s not make any mistake here, he took over.
But let’s take a step back for a second. Right before Zanetti decided he’d had enough of all this shit and just do it himself, he got burned about 3 times on the left side. He got burned inside and outside. And then, he figured out how to keep from getting burned – and this is what separates Zanetti from a lot of players. Instead of dropping back to allow more cushion, and therefore open more dangerous space between him and the guy killing him; what he did was to push forward. Forcing that winger to drop back to guard against those cutting, marauding runs forward that were just gutting the Kazan right midfield and defence, Javier eliminated a threat from the game. And he exploited a weakness in Rubin Kazan at the same time.
Before the 1st half would end, he mad an incredible run forward that led to an incredibly beautiful passing combination that was a delight to watch. Zanetti, deep in enemy territory was dispossessed and the ball went right to Mario standing close to the end line in front of the left post. A quick heel to Eto’o and the TV angle was so bad that I wasn’t sure where the ball was through all the legs. Eto’o buried that ball so hard and so fast in real time that I, at first couldn’t follow what happened on a 42” inch HD TV. I thought, “Am I crazy or did that sucker get in?”
I wasn’t crazy. And I must have been in some kind of shock to use the word "sucker".
Later Zanetti made another run that was simply incredible. He wove through 4 or 5 Rubin Kazan players and as he was making his way through that last one – the whole stadium knew what was going to happen, Paris, gloriously come again – at the very last instant he was viciously taken down from behind. The caution was a certainty, but there was no way that the ref would have given a red there, 20 meters from goal. Technically speaking, there was no obvious goal scoring opportunity.
Right before the half ended, Maicon almost made it 2-0 with a wonderful shot that was barely kept from going in high by a desperation save.
In the second half Kazan came out swinging right up to the point where Cambiasso went close and handed Inter the momentum. Inter started reasserting itself into the game when Mario, with what looked like the slightest of deflections off the wall, blasted a wickedly curling free kick into the net where the keeper had no chance. None at all. I daresay it was as lovely a shot as CRonaldo’s yesterday. It’s a shame that it’ll get half the press since it was just some Italian kid doing it.
Mario had another 2 chances, Wesley went off the crossbar and Milito went close but the scoring would end 2-0. Dragon slain, Good triumphing over Evil.
My Inter Players of the Match:
Stats Home Team First
Shots (on Goal) 14(6) 10(3)
Fouls 18 11
Corner Kicks 4 5
Offsides 7 1
Time of Possession 52% 48%
Yellow Cards 2 2
Rubin is a nice team, but we were so adamant about pushing up that we were often pressuring the Kazan goalkeeper into making some of the worst clearances you would ever see. He also made some of the damnedest saves. This is a guy that a team with only a little money could probably sign and he could help right away. He’s at the perfect age too, at 29. Just don’t ask him to use his feet to much.
Julio Cesar: Clean sheet? Check. Handled crosses well? Check. Distributed the ball well? Check. Bailed out the defence and maintained possession? Check. Good boy. 7.0
Javier Zanetti: How many times does a play-by-play guy on TV wonder at Javier’s ability in spite of his age? Once a game? Honestly, he looks like he could go forever. He’s not perfect. He’s lost a step, and he didn’t have too many to lose. But they don’t come much smarter. Or confident. Or in command. 8.0
Lucio: Lucio was caught out of position once this game. It’s going to happen. But he also commanded the skies in the back third and since there wasn’t a real defensive midfielder to link the defence with the rest of the team, he filled that role, as well. He also passes the ball very well for a defender. 7.0
Samuel: Walter wasn’t on the field long enough to get a rating and I hope to hades that he’s okay. I feel confident and secure when he’s back there. N\A
Maicon: It’s been awhile since we’ve seen Maicon around isn’t it? Looked very good but he still gets sucked inside more than I have ever seen him do. Interestingly, he really didn’t have a partner in the midfield to switch with him this game, but he still managed to do defensive duties adequately. This is all we ask of him. Had a hell of a shot in the first half, where he did almost all his offensive damage. 7.0
Motta: Mourinho calls Motta the man of the match and I think I see what he means. Motta was the only guy really who started playing when the whistle went off. He covered the defensive duties when Zanetti went forward, which was a lot. He was very good in maintaining possession. And he can tackle the hell out of someone when he fucking feels like it. He didn’t miss a step – it was an incredibly professional game. 7.5
Sneijder: Wesley was as ever, the offensive dynamo. It takes him a while to heat up, like an old car. But once he gets going… wow, is he fun to watch. Technically he was a Center Midfielder today. We all know that really we were attacking with 4 players, right? Good game for Sneijder, we need one more just like him. 7.5
Stankovic: Once Deki got clipped in the ankle by Lucio, we really didn’t hear much from him. This is okay. Maybe we need to get him more rest, so that when he does play, he’s much more effective. Dejan was played a bit out of position, perhaps being asked to do more defensive duty than he’s used to, but the great thing about him, is that he’ll do it, won’t complain and give you his all. I gotta respect that. 6.5
Milito: A lot of the talk about Milito is that he looked tired and that he was out of sorts. I agree he got tired at the end, but I am not really concerned about that. Here’s what I don’t know – I don’t know how many times Milito has played in International contests like these. I know he didn’t get any chances with Genoa. Is this stage fright, or is this CL nerves. I hope it’s the former. I thought he played OK today though. 6.5
Eto’o: Ran his short little heart out. He scored a hell of a goal. A hell of a goal. No hesitation, ruthlessly put in the back of the net as fast as possible. It was as professional a hit as I have seen. Plus I love how he celebrates, it’s always with a teammate and it’s always with love. He came damn close on another free kick too. It took a miracle save to keep it out. 7.5
Mario Balotelli: He got chants against him twice when he wasn’t even in the stadium this past month. He got chants when he was on the bench this last weekend. He got chants when the team that everyone was supposed to be watching was kicked out of the Champions League. What does he do? He makes the assist on the winner and he puts one in himself on just a wonderful free kick that would have gone in on any other human. It couldn’t be saved. Great all around performance, that did have a flaw or two, a hiccup, if you will. He’s a great player, end of. 8.0
Cordoba: The game might have been more suited to his particular skill set, but it was a shame to have to use him like this. I would like to add though, that he was ready, warmed up and eager to go in when he had to. Professional. 6.5
Cambiasso: As a grown man, I get a little giddy when Cambiasso goes in right behind Sneijder. I think that’s a great combination that has not had a decent amount of time to really work yet with the odd complimentary injuries. But, when he went in his work rate was so high it was like watching a hummingbird flying around a flower. I love to watch him play. 7.0
Muntari: Sully didn’t have time to do too much, but as usual you got high defensive work rate and the occasional thrust forward. I know that there are not a lot of Muntari supporters here, but I love him. Every team needs a defensive specialist and he’s ours. With him on the team, we really don’t need Vieira, heheh. N\A
I just wanted to reiterate something I wrote after the Barcelona game that apparently a lot of people liked so much they come back here misquoting it:
“With Fiorentina and Juventus coming up in key matches and the final Champions League Matchday more vital, Barcelona became a chore. We had to show up. We had to play it. But we aren’t going to risk anything or anyone.
“Does this mean that we played to lose? That losing was the plan? Noooooo. It means that we didn’t risk anything or anyone. That, from what I can tell, we went into the game saying, “A draw is nice – if not, then no biggie.”
Of course, this is good scheming only if we manage to beat Fiorentina and only if we manage to beat the Russian Champions. Otherwise we have just thrown an opportunity down the drain for nothing…”
Why do I bring this up again? For several reasons I’d like to share:
1. It turns out that winning at home with Fiorentina was vital. If we didn’t win that game, then our loss to Juventus a week later would have been disastrous. Milan is currently sitting at -4. A draw or loss against the Viola would have made the table -2 or -1 and Milan with momentum. As it is, the loss at Turin just maintained the status quo.
2. The Fiorentina game, the Juventus game and today’s game are examples of an Inter that wasn’t afraid to risk going forward – that wanted to win desperately. Risking so much that at times we were attacking with 6 men today! These elements were missing during the Barcelona game. If one were to watch that game again and compare it to the last 3 games, it would be painfully obvious how much we weren’t motivated – from the top down – to play that game. Plus, consider that we lost players today and against Fiorentina due to the work and pressure we put on ourselves to win. I think that we were lucky not to have injury from the physical Juve game.
3. It turns out that it was good scheming. We beat Fiorentina to maintain leadership of Serie A and we beat the Russian Champs to progress to the next round. We used almost 20 players to do it but, one of our strengths, recently, has been the bench.
As it turns out, everything has worked out for us so far. With a little luck and maybe a Winter Transfer Saturnalia Package, we can lope along without Eto’o or Muntari for a month or two.
By the way, I forget, are we in crisis again because of the Juventus game? Are we out of it yet? I can’t keep up…