Set the Stage
First, some background. Inter experienced the lowest of the lows against Fiorentina just a week ago losing 4-0 away. It wasn’t just the score that was bad, the team that looked uninterested and for the first time under Stramaccioni, unwilling to fight. The days just after the game had media story after media story of the coach’s dismissal and transfer departures for the players. Knowing that the derby had to be played in a week and his job evaluation hinging on the result, Strama – some say recklessly – played the main team contributors against Cluj in a second leg of a tie that Inter already had a strong advantage. Those who criticized Strama for playing the starters appeared at first glance to be correct as Ranocchia went down at the end of the 0-3 win with a knee injury.
Personally I thought that despite the Ranocchia injury, there was no way that Strama could have allowed those players on the field for the derby with the last game taste of Fiorentina’s whipping on the tongue. Was it risky? Yeah, but every game is a risk in this sport. Even if it meant that one player had to go down with an injury, the other 10 had to gain some belief, some confidence that they deserved to be on the field with
Some would say that would be the coaches job, and to a point those people would be correct. The coach should instill some confidence in his ideas and selections. But in Serie A, the players aren’t stupid. They can tell that they are having a bad period just like everyone else can. They need to believe that the bad period is just that, a short bad spell that will go away at some point and that the ball will once again do their bidding. It’s my opinion that the game in Cluj went a long way to convince the players that they are still good. On the other hand,
I don’t really want to make a single monster post about this game as I think there are a lot of things to take away from this weeks play, so I will conclude this "Part 1" today the way I started it; talking about why this feels like a win and not a draw.
Most Inter supporters are probably pretty happy because they feel that a bullet was dodged, and maybe that’s the case. But rather I like to think that this shows that the "much maligned from yours truly front office" has a clue. If there was a bullet dodged yesterday, the movement for dodging that bullet started in June 2012 when the front office replaced Cesar with Handanovic. More than any other signing this past summer, with the steal that was Cassano probably a close second, Handanovic’s acquisition has proven to be both the best football smart and financially smart move the team made. I think it’s only fair to praise the front office when they do something right and Handanovic was very right last night.
But I don’t really consider it being a bullet dodged. And I know that this might not be a surprised to many of you reading this. But here’s what I perceive to be the truth – the team invested in a goalkeeper of Handanovic’s reputation and résumé to keep them in games just like this one. You know, because this might be a season in which the last line of defense could be decisive. If
I think that something needs to be said about the team’s attitude yesterday. At no point, even during
It would have been easy for Ranocchia to blame his knee and not sacrifice what he knew would be some swelling later for a last ditch tackle here or a contested header there.
Handanovic, whose skill I have already sung praises for, could easily been excused a second goal for the night, but he refused to give in to the temptation to give less than his all on every single stop.
As the second half started, Palacio looked dangerous, not resigned to losing, on a couple attempts to bring the ball into the
How about Nagatomo? He had been tossed this way and that in the first half. How easy could have been for him to just sit quietly in the left corner and hope that the ball stays away from him. He played himself back into the game in the second to put the ball right on Schelotto’s head for a beautiful goal before practically playing his fool leg right off.
And I could go on for every player who fought to work harder the second half. That’s a lot of heart and it comes from the top.
In the second half when Zanetti was put on the right to organize the pieces to stop the gambit, it was
Conclusion of Part 1
If nothing else, that second half reaffirms whatever hope I have for Strama. The players came into the game with the right attitude and with surprisingly better stamina then