Heading into the 32nd round of league fixtures, the most pressing thought on most Interisti's minds was how the players were going to turn around their dismal performances of late in order to salvage any remaining hope for European competition. Would Mazzarri make any changes, specifically incorporating a certain young Croatian midfielder into his lineup? If changes were implemented, could the fans expect a better team performance as well as result?
Aside from the usual pregame talk of lineups and the like, a touching moment before the match occurred with President Thohir and recently retired Inter player, Cristian Chivu took place as the new owner gave Chivu a fond farewell in front of the fans.
168 appearances, 7 years at Inter, 9 trophies. Grazie @Chivu_Official pic.twitter.com/DTCVS71hcb— InterData (@Inter_Data) April 5, 2014
Hopefully this sentimental moment from a treble winning player could inspire the troops to win at home, or at least that was the hope. It was up to the players to respond to the challenge at hand, could they right the wayward ship for the full three points and victory or would this once again be another battle lost at sea?
Official Lineups from the Inter site:
INTER (3-5-2): Handanovic; Rolando, Ranocchia, Juan Jesus; D'Ambrosio, Hernanes, Cambiasso, Alvarez, Nagatomo; Icardi, Palacio
Substitutes not used: Castellazzi, Carrizo, Zanetti, Andreolli, Campagnaro, Guarin, Kuzmanovic, Taider, Botta.
Coach: Walter Mazzarri.
Bologna (3-5-1-1): Curci; Antonsson, Natali, Mantovani; Garics, Pazienza, Khrin, Christodoulopoulos, Cech; Kone, Cristaldo
Substitutes not used: Stojanovic, Sorensen, Cherubin, Crespo, Friberg, Ibson, Bianchi, Moscardelli, Paponi.
Coach: Davide Ballardini.
Officials: Mazzoleni , Vivenzi, Schenone, Posato, Merchiori, Saia
(Please click here for the Live Match Thread and comments).
Despite reports of changing up the lineup, Mazzarri stuck with his 3-5-2 formation consisting of Handanovic in goal; Rolando, Ranocchia, and Juan Jesus in a three man defense; D'Ambrosio, Hernanes, Cambiasso, Alvarez, and Nagatomo in a five man midfield; with Palacio and Icardi teaming up as the strike force up top.
Inter came out attacking and within the first few moments of the match their work paid off as Icardi scored in the 6th minute of play as the Argentine striker connected with Nagatomo's perfectly crossed ball from the left. Inter led Bologna, 1-0 with only minutes into the opening half.
Attempts from Ranocchia (with a header in the 11th minute), Alvarez's shot on target (saved by Curci in the 20th minute), and Hernanes (in the 21st minute), were unable to be converted as the Nerazzurri continued to apply offensive pressure but to no avail.
Juan Jesus was substituted in the 28th minute as he sustained an injury after contact from Christodoulopoulos. The Brazilian was unable to continue and Samuel came in as his replacement. The back three now lined up with Ranocchia on the right, Samuel in the center, and Rolando on the left.
In the 35th minute, Handanovic stopped Lazaros' shot on goal but Bologna equalized as Pazienza slotted home the rebound.
While the Nerazzurri came out fired up in the initial moments of the first half ultimately resulting in an early goal, after they scored, the Inter players lost a bit of their intensity. This allowed Pazienza to score, equalizing the score line and nullifying any advantage that the home side possessed. Mazzarri would have his hands full at the half to try and make the necessary changes to obtain a victory at home.
The away side came out firing as the second half began as Inter youth product and current Bologna midfielder, Khrin, forced a save from Handanovic.
D'Ambrosio had a decent performance on the right but Mazzarri decided (much to the joy of most Interisti), to bring on Kovacic in the 8th minute of the second half. The talented young Croatian had barely featured in Mazzarri's side much to the disappointment of many Interisti. Kovacic's presence was needed to inject some life into a listless midfield.
A fine partita i complimenti di #Zanetti a #Kovacic pic.twitter.com/WB3IEZMV9Y— Daniele Mari (@danmari83) April 5, 2014
The joy of Interisti worldwide continued as some beautiful play between Kovacic and Hernanes resulted in finding Icardi outside of the box, who then struck a ball that deflected in, off the post, for goal in the 18th minute of the second half. Despite reports prior to the match that the young Argentine striker would be sidelined due to an injury, he started and appeared to be the difference maker.
Interisti's joy was shortlived as ten minutes later, in the 28th minute of play, Rolando slipped in front of goal which allowed Kone to score and Bologna equalized once again.
In the 34th minute, Cambiasso was substituted for Milito as Mazzarri was still searching for that elusive win.
The first penalty awarded to Inter in league play came in the 39th minute as Mantovani brought down Palacio in the box. Whether it is not enough playing time or just another bout of bad luck, unfortunately, the penalty was not converted as Milito's shot was saved by Bologna keeper Curci.
Inter tried a few more attempts to score a late winner but ultimately while the Nerazzurri dominated in ball possession they were unable to convert the multitude of offensive opportunities presented. Once again, goals could not be converted and there were periods of time where players lost focus and intensity.
Highlights of the match centered on the Icardi brace, Kovacic's opportunity to play, and Ranocchia's growing confidence with his defensive performances. While the young Argentine striker still has much to improve upon, he has become more mobile up top and that increased movement has resulted in deserved goals. Kovacic has finally featured in a match and although it was limited in time his midfield presence was key in both the second goal and penalty won. Hopefully, Mazzarri will be as impressed as the fans who watched the young Croatian midfielder play today. Lastly, although Ranocchia has had a bit of criticism this season, he has improved in his defensive performances lately resulting in a growing fan base for the Italian defender.
The areas of improvement are almost overwhelming when one considers the poor run of recent form. Lack of focus, lost intensity, defensive mistakes, and a non-converted penalty kick (the only penalty awarded to Inter this season) may make the most patient of Interisti feel quite frustrated. Additionally, while the good news is that Icardi scored a brace during the match, the bad news is that Inter have only won one out of five matches when he has scored or a dismal 20%.
Yet again, it was another missed opportunity for Inter as they drop two important points at home. The battle for European competition has become more challenging with Sampdoria, Parma, Napoli, Milan, Lazio and Chievo all waiting in the wings to play the struggling Nerazzurri.
With six games left in this tumultuous season, the Nerazzurri will need to dig from deep within to pull out all of the stops if they have any hope for European competition. Currently Inter sit in 5th place with 50 points, with 4th placed Fiorentina at 52 points and 6th placed Parma at 47 points, both with playing their games tomorrow.
Inter 2-2 Bologna
First half: Icardi 6', Pazienza 35'
Second half: Icardi 18', Kone 28'