Midweek return to Serie A saw Inter defeat Chievo 0-1 in the early game today. This was a fitful game that reminded me of a car starting after a long dormant period. There were some gasps and coughs, a little dashboard stroking and a little whispered praying to get the engine started. However like an old reliable car it eventually started and took us where we wanted to go.
My Inter Player of the game is pretty obvious in retrospect.
More after the break.
It was a strongly played game. Inter started out in the 4-2-3-1 formation with Javier Zanetti and Patrick Nah Nah Nah Nah/Hey Hey Hey” Vieira as the “2”. Chievo responded with a plan to press and double each of the “3” players upon receiving the ball – Pandev in his debut, Sneijder and Mario. Sneijder with his rather slight build found himself pushed around early on.
Mario as the biggest and strongest of the “3” players was often the outlet up the field for the defensive elements of the team as Pandev – of similar stature as Sneijder - found himself treated the same way that Sneijder was. He was pressed, doubled and physically abused repeatedly in an effort to get the ball off him. Mario’s response after about half the game was genius. If they were going to foul him repeatedly then he was going to act fouled. Chievo and its fans from their suburb apparently, in a fit of madness were really upset that Mario had the unmitigated gall to act fouled when he was pushed, pulled and tripped all night. Apparently it was only okay for Chievo to illegally maul Mario, not for Mario to unethically act mauled.
There were some nice passing moments between Pandev and Sneijder that resulted in at least one threat on goal – if not a shot - as Sneijder was legally wiped out from a defender from behindish and the keeper from the front. Maicon had a couple nice thrusts into the box which resulted in at least one great shot. Before he got injured Chivu had a couple of nice dribbles around the Chievo defence as he pushed forward, as did Lucio.
The referee, and you knew I was going to get to him, left none happy – which probably means that it was okay. There were 9 cautions handed out but there was at least one red – to Yepes after he dragged down Milito late in the second half that I thought should have been given. There were penalty shouts at both ends and the media vultures will probably focus on the Pellissier one which, although it wasn’t the weakest case for a possible penalty today it wasn’t the strongest either.
For those who didn’t see it, somewhere between the top of the area and the penalty spot off to the left a bit, Cordoba touched the ball towards Cesar and Pellissier cut right in front of Cordoba and “tripped” down. It was a classic case of the forward initiating contact. I thought it was a decent no call, but there are others that don’t agree, of whom I am happy not to be associated.
The weakest penalty shout was against Quaresma. The ball had bounced off Quaresma’s arm/hand (I had thought it was an elbow but I have read since that some thought it was the hand) right at the 96th minute. Considering that he and another Chievo player were pushing and shoving for position and that he wasn’t even looking at the ball I consider this to be pretty weak.
What I thought was the strongest penalty possibility, but the most unlikely to be called, was the one on Mario at the top of the box in the mid first half. Moments earlier than this possible penalty, Chivu was cautioned for an ill conceived body check. A similar body check was done on Mario as he dribbled into the area and was knocked off the ball and to the ground. I have never seen that foul given as a penalty and that includes Iuliano body checking Ronaldo in 1998.
I really thought that Yepes should have been sent off for dragging down Milito. It was out of the area, but Milito and Sneijder had worked a nice 1 – 2, the two being the return to Milito who was streaking past a standing still Yepes. Yepes who could see the anvil falling like Wile E. had only one move to make if he/Chievo hoped to equalize later in the game. As it was, there was not even a foul given.
Stats Home Team First
Shots (on Goal) 12(3) 15(4)
Fouls 26 18
Corner Kicks 3 6
Offsides 9 1
Time of Possession 42% 58%
Yellow Cards 3 6
Soccernet.com has Cesar making 3 saves but I only remember 2 that actually threatened the goal. One was a 1v1 with Pelliesier and the other was a pretty weak shot. The rest of Cesar’s day was basically dealing with crosses. Chievo was called for 9 offsides. I agreed with them all except one and I wasn’t too upset at that one as there was a Chievo player offsides – right next to the one that got the ball. I think it’s pretty odd that we got twice the cautions but somehow ended up with fewer committed fouls. It wasn’t as though we fouled them any harder than they fouled us.
Cesar: Cesar dealt with the 2 real threats that came at him. He also was able to deal with just about every cross that strayed to close to him. He had one misstep early but I am attributing it rust. 7.0
Maicon: Maicon had an up and down game, I thought. He saved our bacon on defence on one occasion. He had a real nice dash forward and took a beauty of a shot near half time. But, on the other hand, he was caught forward a couple of times and Javier and Patrick had to cover for him. For me, the good outweighed the bad. 7.0
Lucio: Lucio had a very good game today. He defended, he was good in the air and he made the interceptions and attacks that he was brought in to do. He made one mistake that led to a chance by Abbruscato but it was dealt with. 7.0
Cordoba: Cordoba had a very decent game today. He was able to cut out players attacking the area and was moved to fullback later to cover for Chivu. Outside of any “controversy” that may have occurred with Pellissier he was pretty solid. 6.5
Chivu: As someone remarked, this was probably Chivu’s best game to date this season. He really tried to push forward and balance his game once he saw that Pandev was getting physically manhandled. Pellissier knocked him on the temple as they both went up for a head ball after Pellissier mishandled a pass. I am sure that all our thoughts are with him to get better and be safe. 7.0
Zanetti: Showing yet another side to his professional game this season, Zanetti took the field as a defensive midfielder. He played a solid game with only one misstep – an errant pass - that I can recall. 7.0
Vieira: Patrick had a decent game by his standards. But overall it was not particularly good. I think Zanetti and Lucio did a lot of covering for him. And I recall that he whiffed on more than a couple tackles. 6.5
Pandev: Goran looked like a guy playing for the first time in a season. He was pushed around a lot and even kneed in the back of the head – no call of course. But I have to say that I noticed that he was able to set some things up with Milito, Mario and Sneijder. Plus, I think he was the guy to not only feed Mario for the goal, he was the guy who followed the play up in case it wasn’t a goal and removed all doubt. 7.0
Sneijder: Wesley reminded me of something that I saw during the UCL. When Wesley gets knocked around, it pisses him off and it makes him work harder. I thought that he had a good game regardless. I kinda like it. 7.0
Mario: Mario played a hell of a game today, considering the pressing. Despite the 2 defenders on him and the fouling all day long he was the go-to guy. He came back helped out on defence. He instigated several attacks and he learned from his past games. On his goal, his first shot was saved and he stayed with the play and made a better shot the second time. 8.0
Milito: Not the best game by Milito. It looks like his poor form from December is continuing, although I am going to continue to think that he would have had a hell of an opportunity if Yepes didn’t tackle him. 6.0
Materazzi: Marco had a very decent run out in relief of Chivu. 6.5
Quaresma: I thought that Quaresma played well. He is one of the 3 or 4 players that we have that will run at defenders and try to make plays. I like the improvement I see from last season. He was really willing to come back and help out on defence. He picked up a silly yellow but I don’t have complaints. Luciano kicked or pushed Ricardo literally every time he touched the ball. Ricardo getting himself some back was nice to see, and a little satisfying, too. 6.5
Arnautovic: This was the first time that I saw Marko, I think. He certainly was able to push the ball forward. I think I also saw him helping back in defence along the sideline. He was only on the field for 8 minutes so it wasn’t really a great chance to see him play. Here’s hoping we see a little more, if just to see how he plays. N/A
Some thoughts from the game.
The first is that English people really love Patrick Vieira. The guy on FSC was positively orgasmic over the possibility that Vieira’s arrival at Manchester City was imminent. For those that missed it, as they were going down the lineups, the announcer got as far as Vieira. New arrival Pandev and the entire front line were basically ignored. I don’t pretend to know anything about the BPL but if Vieira is someone that they want back and are excited about, I can’t see how I am wrong to ignore it. I understand that he might have his supporters here and if you are sad to see him go, then I sympathize with you the feeling of having to say goodbye. But I can’t say that I am sorry to see the man go. I hope that this means that Mourinho wants to give more time to Krhin.
The second thing is that Beppe Bergomi was wise to worry that our front group are now a bunch of “little shits”. We got pushed around today physically if not technically or tactically. A Game like this is when I miss having a big forward.
We were able to shut out a team without Eto’o, Cambisso, Samuel and Zanetti playing out of position. It wasn’t particularly pretty, but it is a compliment to our depth that we had three important players missing and we were still good enough.
Speaking of depth, I wanted to see if Santon has got his act together. I guess I'll find out pretty quick.
The team was fined for fans shouting racial abuse and setting off firecrackers in Chievo. I am happy that the league is doing something and unlike other team supporters, I am not going to play the victim here. On the contrary, I encourage the team to release a statement telling other Inter supporters that this behavior is unacceptable. If the team is going to be building a new stadium I suggest - not that anyone really cares what I suggest, mind you - that it do its utmost to provide a different environment for the team – like using picture id’s to purchase tickets, purchase history, HDCCTV’s on every inch of the grounds and a steward “goon squad”. All that and stands right down to the pitch (if I never see another track at a football game, I'll be happy) and we could have an even greater club.