Matchday 6 and we are in the middle stages of our hellish tour that started last weekend at Cagliari.
We met Sampdoria at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris, who is also managed by Luigi Del Neri. Last season all three of those names were bad news for us. With the game yesterday, the media, in an effort to get at Mourinho’s goat suggested that they might be turning into our Bestia Nera, which in this context doesn’t mean "bad luck", as someone who thinks he knows it all might suggest. There is a worry that Samp and this manager are turning into that team that always gives us trouble, despite the disparity in talent – a Nemesis, if you will.
Anyway, we didn’t have many standout performances but there was one that I thought was the most influential on our game:
Highlights after the break
Stats Home team first:
Shots (on Goal): 7(2) 13(3)
Fouls: 14 19
Corner Kicks: 3 7
Offsides: 1 3
Time of Possession: 36% 64%
Yellow Cards: 5 1
Red Cards: 0 0
Saves: 3 1
Special note: Notice the yellow cards and how they indicate how often they had to tactically foul us when we were on the attack. 2 of those yellow cards came against Mario as he was pushing the ball forward.
This game had a lot of similarities to the game away against Milan last season. We were denied a penalty that we should have had. Poor refereeing decided the game as a loss instead of a draw. The home team came away without getting a deserved red card. We looked like we would have been happy with a draw in both games. Both games came in crazy League and Champions League schedule congestion that our opponents didn’t have to worry about.
Cesar: Julio wasn’t called to shot stopping duty often and he did well when called as usual. The goal wasn’t his fault. 6.5
Maicon: Here’s the thing. If you have a player like Maicon, then you can’t move an attacking player in front of him or it jams him up. See, when you play a 442 team, the fullbacks – unlike the other positions on the field - have space to move. When Mario moved to the right of the formation, he was drawing defenders with him. Him plus them equals no room for Maicon. Wesley, I think gets this already, because he usually drifts to the left where he’s not getting in the way of anyone. This wasn’t the only thing wrong with Maicon’s game yesterday, but it didn’t help. 5.5
Lucio: Lucio played a good solid game. He intercepted passes and pushed the ball forward, which is his job. He wasn’t at fault for the goal, but if he had played a magnificent game he would have gotten in front of Pazzini… it’s not like they didn’t know who is and that was why they left him open. 6.5
Samuel: Ditto Samuel. Pazzini isn’t a guy who should be left alone anyway. Someone should have been on him. 6
Santon: Santon is going to get a lot of grief for his mistake. It’s not his mistake alone, but it was a poor decision. This is why managers don’t like to play youngsters even though we supporters continue to push for them. They make more mistakes than the vets. Even though he messed up, I liked the way he played against Cassano. He showed speed and class, as usual. 5.5
Zanetti: Zanetti did his usual covering for Maicon. He also helped cover Casssano with Cambiasso when needed and was generally his solid self. The only thing I have a problem with Zanetti is also the thing I love about him. He has class and he wouldn’t yell at a ref to demand a stone cold red card or penalty – both of which we were owed yesterday. But on the other hand… that ref needed to be yelled at. 6.0
Vieira: I don’t like how he plays in general, but the tone of the game suited him. He’s immobile and has no reaction time and it showed. He should have had a yellow for a non-challenge and contributes nothing to the attack. The sooner we are quit of him the happier I am with the team. 5
Cambiasso: Covered Cassano almost one on one, with an assist from Zanetti for almost the entire game. He must have been winded from playing midweek and just coming back from injury, because other than that explanation I can’t figure why he came off. 6
Balotelli: He’s my player of the game. He was the engine of the attack. He scared Sampdoria so badly that they had to adopt last seasons Manchester United’s defence against him: namely, tactically foul him from behind every time he touches the ball. He was the root cause of 2 yellows – and should have been the root cause of a red - as Samp players had to double team him. He got kicked all game long and kept his composure and attacked with imagination – something that people who have been here awhile know that I think this team needs. As much stick as he gets from others for nothing, both who follow this team and who don’t, he should get praise for improvement of play and temperament. 7
Milito: Continued to put in big effort and came close a couple of times. He was unselfish and a constant thorn in Sampdoria’s side. 6.5
Eto’o: He had the best shot of the game and just missed having it go in quite a few times. However it was just that kind of night as we were the better team, but the least lucky. Eto’o has the reputation of being a little wasteful and he was today. He still makes me catch my breath when I see him play. 6.5
Quaresma: Pushed the ball forward and made some nice passes. I thought his shot had gone in, but I had the crappiest stream and didn’t realize that it looked like Lucio tapped it in from offsides. I still haven’t seen a great angle of it but it looked like it could have been. I had no problems with Ricky’s play, it just was too little too late for me. 6
Chivu: If there was a substitution that didn’t sit well with me when it happened it was this one. I don’t mind taking Mario off, if we were putting Ricky or Mancini in, but Chivu was a signal for the Shell Game, and I didn’t want to see that. Chivu, in my mind was at part fault for the goal since he didn’t A.) vacate space for Santon to take his defender off the dribble or B.) didn’t really give him a target to pass to, he just kinda stood there being covered. Chivu lovers might think that I am giving Santon a break, but I am not. Trust me, there is a third culprit to this goal. 5.5
Stankovic: This was the guy that I thought was going to start instead of Vieira. He didn't do much, but what he didn't do was make too many mistakes. 6
Mourinho: Since last season I have marveled at Mourinho’s ability to manage a game. The team is prepared, the starting 11 and formation is usually chosen with a plan in mind better than the “go out there and do stuff” of other managers and his subs are usually pretty spot on, when not forced by injury. But yesterday’s subs mystified me. Putting Chivu on as an outside midfielder/5th defender to nail a draw smacks of Ranieri and I think that Mourinho is better than that. Plus we flipped formations for some reason. We are a stronger team than Samp, there is no reason that I can think of that we need to prove how versatile we are - it just gets distracting. 6
I made a comment that I thought that this game was going to be a tough physical fight. I was right, but it’s not too hard to predict these things. We know that we are going to have more talent than most teams, because we have a good team.
So they other way to win a game is to out work the other team. We were doing that too until Mario came off. Mario was working hard. He was getting kicked, shoulder checked and cut down from behind and he was working hard and not losing his cool. If for no other reason, I would have allowed him to stay on as a reward, since we all know that he wants more playing time.
Was the ref bad? As I have alluded to above, yes, he was bad. We should have had a man up and we had an opportunity on the goal literally thrown away. Was he the difference between winning and losing? Yeah, I think so; I think it was that bad. With 10 men in the first half Samp would have had to go into the old 9-0 formation and stay camped in their own side. The late handling would have been enough for us to salvage the point that we probably should have gotten.
However bad the ref - and our history of getting deserved penalties – the bigger issue going forward is our injury situation for the next game, which is a Champions League game away to the Russian team. The draw against Barcelona helped us out in our bid to advance, but we need to collect some away points as well.
With luck, this loss can be used to focus our efforts for the rest of the first half of the season like it did last season. While that is happening we need to get healthy and the team needs more time to work together and create more chemistry.
Javier Zanetti reflected on Inter's defeat to Sampdoria in a post-match interview with Inter Channel. He said: "We played an excellent match and tried everything to win it but unfortunately Sampdoria scored a goal from our only mistake. We were intelligent, we closed down all the spaces and we created chances when we could. We didn't take our chances, but we have nothing to blame ourselves for. This is football. You don't deserve to lose a match but you still go home without any points."
From club to country, Zanetti commented on the Argentine FA's decision not to call him up to the national team. "I don't know the reason, it doesn't depend on me," said the Inter captain, whose made his 112th consecutive appearance in Saturday's match at the Luigi Ferraris. "But the most important thing is that Argentina win these two games and qualify for the 2010 World Cup."
Like all of his team-mates, Samuel Eto'o is philosophical in defeat. "Unfortunately this is the reality of football," he told Inter Channel after the 1-0 reverse at Sampdoria. "You can get matches like the one Inter played tonight and not collect any points, but I am satisfied with the work the whole team did.
"I don't think I played too far away from the goal tonight. I am playing in a new formation, the 4-4-2 with a diamond midfield. The coach gives me freedom of movement and I take advantage of it. I'm very happy in this position. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but I have nothing negative to say."
Inter fell to their first defeat of the Serie A season after a combative match against Sampdoria and José Mourinho told Sky Sport Italia that the only thing he didn't like about his team's performance was "the result and the three points dropped."
The Portuguese coach went on: "Sampdoria took the lead after a defensive mistake by Santon, but I have never blamed a player for a defeat in my whole career and I won't do it now. And I won't talk about our opponents because it's Del Neri who will talk about Sampdoria.
"You ask me why I took off Balotelli. I'm the coach, it's me who decides and I don't have to explain my decisions. You say Eto'o was too far back. This is your opinion, but we were playing without Sneijder and Motta so it's obvious that the team lost something in midfield and in its game between the lines."
Mourinho explained: "I'm no longer in press silence because my club has a contract with the televisions and I will respect it. If there wasn't, I would have kept not talking. Why did this all start? I'm keeping the reason to myself."