Last week, Inter finally broke a recent winless streak with the thumping of a ten man Sampdoria. Inconsistency has plagued the Nerazzurri all season and the big question coming into this week's match was whether Inter could build upon the victory.
With only five matches to go, the 34th round of league fixtures would pit 5th placed Inter away to 6th placed Parma. The match was expected to be highly competitive as both sides wanted the win not only for pride but also for a chance to play in Europe next season. A three point swing for Inter could mean the difference between Europa League or yet another season without European competition. To add to the already high pressure situation, the Nerazzurri would face four former players in Cassano, Gargano, Biabiany, and Schelotto.
It was unlikely that with European competition hanging in the balance that either side would be content with a point. Which team would walk away with three important points and the victory coupled with the continued hope to play in Europe next season?
Official Lineups from the Inter site:
Inter (3-5-2): Handanovic; Campagnaro, Samuel, Rolando; D'Ambrosio (Zanetti 59), Hernanes (Guarin 88), Cambiasso, Kovacic, Nagatomo; Palacio, Icardi (Botta 81).
Substitutes not used: Castellazzi, Carrizo, Andreolli, Kuzmanovic, Taider, Milito.
Manager: Walter Mazzarri.
[Note: Ranocchia is out due to a yellow card accumulation and Juan Jesus is out for the season due to knee ligament damage. Please click here for the injury update.]
Parma (4-3-3): Mirante; Cassani, Lucarelli, Paletta, Molinaro (Schelotto 63, Amauri 73); Gargano, Marchionni, Parolo; Biabiany, Palladino (Felipe 50), Cassano.
Substitutes not used: Pavarini, Bajza, Gobbi, Rossini, Obi, Munari, Acquah, Cerri, Mauri.
Manager: Roberto Donadoni.
Officials: Rocchi, Passeri, Preti, Petrella, Massa, Gervasoni
(Please click here for the Live Match Thread and comments).
Inter lined up in a Mazzarri favorite 3-5-2 formation with Handanovic in goal; Campagnaro, Samuel, and Rolando in a three man defense; a five man midfield of D'Ambrosio, Hernanes, Cambiasso, Kovacic, and Nagatomo; with a strike force of Palacio and Icardi.
Both sides came out wanting the victory as the two teams continue their pursuit of European competition.
In the 2nd minute, Palacio tried to outwit Mirante but the Parma keeper quickly neutralized the Inter attack.
Parma in response began their offensive attack as they wanted all three points and the win.
Samuel fouled Cassano in the 5th minute and the Argentine center back will miss the next match versus Napoli due to yellow card accumulation.
Handanovic leaped into the air to block Cassano's powerful header in the 9th minute as the Slovenian keeper continued to demonstrate his superior skills.
Cassano looked to exact a little revenge over his former club with another shot on goal in the 13th minute.
Handanovic with an easy save in the 14th minute as another former Inter player, Gargano also tried his hand at goal.
Parma mounted and offensive attack and the Nerazzurri could only provide an occasional counter attack amidst the home side's onslaught. Inter defended their goal and slowly began their own attack as the Nerazzurri began to control more ball possession.
Icardi headed the ball only to strike the side netting off of a corner in the 27th minute.
The Nerazzurri were beginning to take a hold of greater possession as they staved off the earlier Parma attacks.
Cambiasso connected with Palacio who volleyed the ball in the 29th minute only for Mirante to save it for an Inter corner kick.
Both sides were attacking as the two clubs searched for the first goal of the match.
Hernanes' free kick in the 32nd minute just outside the top of the box was another Inter shot on target but to no avail.
Once again, Inter were on attack as Cambiasso had another shot on target in the 33rd minute. The Nerazzurri were increasing their offensive pressure. Inter were on the prowl for their opening goal.
In the 43rd minute, Samuel fouled Parolo in the penalty box and Handanovic with yet another fantastic save on the line blocked Cassano's penalty attempt.
In turn, Mirante had a fortuitous save himself as Cambiasso's shot on target in the 45th minute deflected off the goal post then off the heels of the keeper.
While the action on the field seemed to be threatening for goal on both sides of the pitch, the first half had drawn to a close with a 0-0 score line.
The first half was quite eventful with a saved penalty kick and it seemed that things would continue to be busy on the pitch as in the 1st minute of the second half a red card was awarded. Paletta tackled Palacio which earned him a deserved second yellow card. The Nerazzurri were now up a man and they quickly took advantage of it as Rolando scored with a header in the 3rd minute of the second half. He was left wide open on the far post and the Inter defender was the first one on the score sheet as he opened up a one goal lead for the Nerazzurri.
Inter had taken the reigns of the match but Parma were still intent on drawing something from the game and continued to counter attack. In the 9th minute, Handanovic had yet another save as he punched the ball out of danger.
Nagatomo cleared the ball in the 10th minute to keep the Nerazzurri lead.
Although Inter had a man advantage it seemed an open match with Parma pressing in attack to equalize. The Nerazzurri attack had its chances but the final touch was missing as they held onto their 1-0 goal margin.
Mazzarri tried to reinforce defense as Zanetti came on for D'Ambrosio in the 14th minute.
In the 22nd minute of the second half, Hernanes and Palacio charged down the middle of the pitch with some lovely one-touch football that eventually earned the Brazilian a free kick. He shot it directly towards the arms of Mirante who saved it easily.
Kovacic tracked back in defense and won the ball to help Inter regain possession in the 30th minute. The young Croatian was showing both his offensive and defensive skills in the match much to the delight of Interisti worldwide.
Rolando obstructed Cassano in the 34th minute earning him a yellow card ensuring his suspension for next week. Rolando and Samuel will both be out as Inter face Napoli next week.
What may be worrisome to those watching the match was that even with a man advantage, Inter seemed to be losing focus and intensity as the game progressed into the late stages. The Nerazzurri seemed to be content defending their lead with the occasional counter attack. Parma were still attacking even though they were a man down.
In the 36th minute, Botta came on for Icardi and in the 42nd minute Hernanes came off to make way for Guarin. (The Brazilian had just received a yellow card for simulation in the 40th minute).
La Beneamata were truly fortunate as the Colombian international scored within two minutes of his substitution. Guarin scored in the 44th minute as he sent a missile of a shot into the back of the net to widen Inter's lead a two goal advantage.
The Nerazzurri walked away with an important three points and the win as their hunt for European competition is still alive. Sitting in 5th place with 56 points, (only two points behind 4th placed Fiorentina and five points ahead of 6th placed Parma and 7th placed Milan), the road to Europe will come down to the wire. Inter face Napoli (home), Milan (away), Lazio (home), and end the season away at Chievo.
To make a challenging final four games even more difficult, the Nerazzurri will be without two starting center backs as they face Napoli next week. Both Samuel and Rolando received yellow cards that will see them miss the next match. Fortunately, they should be rested for the Derby della Madonnina in two weeks. A one game at a time mentality is important as ultimately, Inter's destiny is in its own hands.
While sidelined due to injury and suspension, Juan Jesus and Ranocchia, respectively, cheered their teammates on through social media. Here is a look at their tweets postmatch, as they celebrated the Inter win with the twitter tifosi!
Grandi ragazzi!!! Vittoria fondamentale!!! ⚫️ AMALA!!! @Inter— Andrea Ranocchia (@23_Frog) April 19, 2014
Man of the Match:
"Super Samir" Handanovic as stated in the official Inter match report with an important penalty kick save in the 44th minute of the first half. Additionally, he had a myriad of fantastic saves showing off why the Slovenian keeper is arguably the best in the world.
Parma 0-2 Inter
First half: N/A
Second half: Rolando 3', Guarin 44'