On Match Day 11, Inter were looking far less impressive than what many had expected of them heading into the 2014-2015 season. The Nerazzurri were trying to bounce back from a shocking loss last week to 20th placed Parma (who coincidentally were pummeled by Juventus today with a score line of 7-0).
This week's match up saw ninth placed Inter host visitors, 12th placed Hellas Verona. The two teams were suited up against each other in a mid-table battle, which for many Interisti would be as painful to watch as it was to acknowledge how their beloved club had sunk to such lows.
Lineups from the official Inter site:
INTER: 1 Handanovic; 23 Ranocchia, 15 Vidic, 5 Juan Jesus; 55 Nagatomo, 17 Kuzmanovic, 18 Medel, 10 Kovacic, 22 Dodo; 8 Palacio, 9 Icardi. Subs: 30 Carrizo, 46 Berni, 6 Andreolli, 7 Osvaldo, 20 Obi, 25 Mbaye, 44 Krhin, 54 Donkor, 88 Hernanes, 97 Bonazzoli.
Coach: Walter Mazzarri.
HELLAS VERONA: 1 Rafael; 71 Martic, 4 Marquez, 18 Moras, 33 Agostini; 23 Ionita, 8 Obbiadi, 10 Halfredsson; 21 Gomez, 9 Toni, 20 Christodoulopoulos. Subs: 22 Benussi, 2 Rodriguez, 7 Saviola, 11 Jankovic, 16 Luna, 17 Nicolas Lopez, 25 Marques, 27 Valoti, 28 Brivio, 30 Campanharo, 40 Gonzalez, 99 Nené.
Coach: Andrea Mandorlini.
Mazzarri lined up in his usual 3-5-2 formation with Handanovic in goal; Ranocchia, Vidic, and Juan Jesus in the back; a midfield of Nagatomo, Kuzmanovic, Medel, Kovacic, and Dodo; with a strike force of Palacio and Icardi.
Inter pressed from the first minute of the match as if trying to exorcise their demons from last week.
Nagatomo was available for duty and free from injury. In the 2nd minute, the Japanese international tried for a header towards goal but it was high over the crossbar as well as called offside by Rocchi.
Kuzmanovic earned a free kick in the 9th minute.
The pace was fast and while it seemed as if the Nerazzurri had a promising start with their aggressive attack, Luca Toni took the wind out of the Inter sails with a cracking finish to put his visiting side ahead in the 10th minute.
Ranocchia crossed the ball into Palacio who kept the ball in play as he skillfully passed a ball onto the charging Icardi as Inter equalized in the 18th minute.
In the 20th and 24th minutes, Kuzmanovic and Palacio hit the woodwork as they kept up the pace of the attack in hopes of putting the game away.
Medel was shown a yellow card for fouling Gomez in the 44th minute (which would be instrumental in changing the game in the second half).
After the Nerazzurri leveled the score line, the home side took charge of much of the possession and offensive opportunities for the remainder of the first half.
The second half began as the first half ended with Inter attacking and were on the hunt for all three points and a win.
Dodo earned a free kick in the 2nd minute of the second half. His deftly delivered free kick almost put Inter ahead as the ball was just inches shy of reaching Palacio's boots.
In another wonderful one-two punch, Palacio once again found Icardi for a sweet Argentine tango that resulted in the go ahead goal that brought Inter the lead in the 3rd minute.
The adulation by Interisti was short-lived. Medel was called for a penalty as the ball hit his arms in the box in the 6th minute. The Chilean international was also given a second yellow card (the first was issued in the 44th minute of the first half) and Medel was sent off to the showers early, leaving Inter a man down.
Fortunately for Inter, the best penalty stopper in the league was between the sticks and true to form "San" Handanovic came to save the day once again. The Slovenian keeper saved Toni's attempt allowing the home side to keep the lead.
A ten men Inter side sat firmly behind the ball trying to defend their lead and what they hoped was a much needed win.
Verona had other plans and in the 22nd minute of the match Christodoulopoulos struck the cross bar. This attempt seemed only to galvanize the visitor's attack and with 10 minutes to go, Mandorlini made two crucial substitutions that changed the match.
In the 35th minute, the Verona coach made a double switch and threw on two attacking players. The visitors replaced Ionita and Gomez for Nico Lopez and Saviola. Would the two attacking players find the back of the net? Unfortunately for Inter and to no surprise to the Interisti watching worldwide, one of the attacking Verona players did.
Inter conceded a late goal by Nico Lopez in the 44th minute as Mandorlini's two offensive substitutes paid off and were too much to handle for the struggling Nerazzurri defense.
Conceding a late goal that finishes as a draw almost always feels like a loss. There is no Man of the Match (although Handanovic's save may have been worthy). So in keeping with Inter's performances of late, I nominate the first, "NOT The Man of the Match" to Inter's very own Walter Mazzarri who leaves many Interisti facepalming in his wake.
Inter 2-2 Hellas Verona
First Half: Toni (10'), Icardi (18')
Second Half: Icardi (3'), Nico Lopez (44')