As Inter looked toward the 29th round of fixtures, it was in hopes of keeping an unbeaten streak alive as they faced the other black and blue clad team, Atalanta. The Lombardy derby has been contentious for the home side as they have had difficulty defeating the visitors in recent years.
Could Inter finally neutralize Atalanta's Argentine striker Denis who seemed to enjoy scoring against the Milan based Nerazzurri side and would his teammate, attacking midfielder Bonaventura, be the key in providing the offensive opportunity to draw a defeat on the road?
Along with worrying about Atalanta's uncanny ability to beat Inter, other concerns for Inter boss Mazzarri revolved around injuries to Alvarez and Nagatomo, both of whom had been crucial to the recent (successful) run of form and were still unavailable to start.
Official Lineups from the Inter site:
Inter XI (3-5-2): Handanovic, Campagnaro (Kovacic 82), Ranocchia, Rolando, Jonathan, Guarin, Cambiasso (Alvarez 60), Hernanes, D'Ambrosio (Nagatomo 71), Palacio, Icardi.
Unused substitutes: Carrizo, Castellazzi, Zanetti, Samuel, Kuzmanovic, Botta, Taider, Milito.
Coach: Walter Mazzarri.
Atalanta XI (4-4-1-1): Consigli, Nica (Raimondi 75), Stendardo, Yepes, Del Grosso, Estigarribia, Cigarini (Baselli 85), Carmona, Bonaventura, Moralez (Brienza 83), Denis.
Unused substitutes: Sportiello, Lucchini, Giorgi, Bellini, Migliaccio, Kone, Livaja, De Luca, Betancourt.
Coach: Stefano Colantuono.
Officials: Giacomelli, Nicoletti, Stallone, Iannello, Mariani, and Saia
Again, Mazzarri left the side unchanged from the previous week and Inter lined up in a 3-5-2 formation with Handanovic in goal; a three man defensive line of Campagnaro, Ranocchia, and Rolando; a five man midfield from right to left of Jonathan, Guarin, Cambiasso, Hernanes, and D'Ambrosio; and a strikeforce of Palacio and Icardi on top.
Inter came out attacking, setting the tone of the match as the home side looked to keep an unbeaten streak alive.
Hernanes was in an offensive mindset as he tried to connect with Guarin early on but unfortunately it went wide in the 3rd minute.
Atalanta came out with a couple of quick counter attacks also trying to look for an early goal.
The pace was fast and furious but both sides were able to neutralize each other's attempts on goal for the first moments of the match.
Handanovic was forced to make a great save in the 7th minute as Stendardo tested the Inter keeper.
In turn, Palacio also forced a save from Consigli with a shot on target in the 9th minute.
The Inter keeper was busy early on as he made another save in the 14th minute this time from Cigarini.
There was a lot of back and forth between the two sides but Inter had a multitude of opportunities in the 21st, 22nd, 25th, 29th, and 32nd minutes but Consigli and the Atalanta defense kept the home side from scoring.
In the 35th minute, during one of Atalanta's counter attacks, Bonaventura shot the goal that brought the visitors ahead on the score sheet, 0-1.
Less than a minute had flown by when Icardi during an Inter counter attack, equalized for the home side with an instinctive move to the right converting his shot for goal. The score was now level at 1-1 in the 36th minute.
Whilst the initial fast pace between the two sides resulted in quick counter attacks and goals for both teams, the first half slowed down with Inter trying to exact more ball possession. Ultimately, the half ended with the score line of Inter 1-1 Atalanta.
Both sides came out of the half looking for the win. This was especially evident by shots on target that took unlucky deflections off the post as Guarin and Jonathan in the 8th and 14th minutes of the second half looked to put Inter ahead.
Cambiasso went off with a slight injury and Alvarez came on in his place in the 15th minute and in the 26th minute, D'Ambrosio was taken off to make way for Nagatomo. Alvarez and Nagatomo were coming back from injury and Mazzarri looked to put some fresh legs in to try for the winning goal.
The final substitution was Kovacic for Campagnaro in the 37th minute of the second half and the backline slotted to a four man defense at times.
Inter's best chance to take away a win and three points seemed to culminate in the 43rd minute as Jonathan hit the crossbar (again) and Icardi missed a sitter in front of goal.
Icardi's movement has continued to improve and while the good news is that the young Argentine striker scored, the bad news is that when he scores Inter has only won 25% of the time.
Unfortunately for Interisti as Atalanta made its last push for the go ahead goal in the 45th minute, Bonaventura headed the goal past the Inter defense and scored a brace, stealing the victory in the final moments of the match. The Bergamo based Nerazzurri squad continued its regional terror on Inter as they stole three points and a victory away from home in the waning minutes of the match.
Although Inter did not seemingly "deserve" the loss, football can be cruel in nature. Missed opportunities and a mistake in the final moments of the match saw the unbeaten streak broken as the home side's hopes for Europe become more difficult as they slip to 6th place in league standings, tied with Parma at 47 points.
The return from injury of Nagatomo and Alvarez will make Mazzarri's decision making ahead of Thursday's match more challenging as Inter host Udinese. It is imperative for the players to focus on improving upon their performance to keep the hope for European competition alive.
Inter 1-2 Atalanta
First half: Bonaventura 35', Icardi 36'
Second half: Bonaventura 45'