Inter took on Udinese today with a chance to gain a little extra breathing room from the other title contenders. With the chasing pack all facing off against each other on Sunday (Napoli vs. Roma and Fiorentina vs. Juventus) a win would allow Mancini and his men to sit on a 4 point lead and watch them take points from one another.
True to form Mancini changed up the starting lineup and formation to keep everybody on their toes. The team reverted back to the attacking 4231 formation with the Montoya getting his first Serie A appearance alongside Miranda, Murillo, and Telles. Melo and Guarin sat in front of the defense while Perisic, Jovetic, and Ljajic played just behind Icardi.
Inter started off brightly and a Jovetic shot from Perisic's cutback almost gave them the lead in the 6th minute. Udinese started to gain a bit of a foothold in the match in the following minutes and started to force Inter players into making bad decisions. By the 20th minute Telles, Perisic, and Ljajic had all been booked and given the team's recent history with red cards, Mancini might have been a little nervous. But then Udinese decided that Christmas would come a little early for Inter. First Bruno Fernandes played a poor backpass that was picked up by Icardi and swept home in the 23rd minute. Then in the 30th minute Domizzi swiped at the ball and it fell to Jovetic who was able to sweetly chip the keeper to give Inter a 2-0 lead.
The second half saw Inter take a little while for things to start clicking again and Handanovic had to be alert to preserve the scoreline. Mancini replaced Jovetic with Brozovic as a means to try to bolster the midfield while still providing some attacking outlet. Eventually Murillo took it upon himself to get the attack going with a powerful drive from the halfway line culminating in a good shot. In the match thread ForzaPupi commented that it was a very Lucio-esque effort, and after seeing something similar against Frosinone, we might have a mini-Lucio on our hands.
It looked like Inter wrapped up the match in the 83rd minute when another Udinese defensive error allowed Icardi the chance to smash home his second of the game. The captain truly had a good performance combining his goals with more involvement in the general attacking play. The best was yet to come however and in the 87th minute Brozovic curled in a beautiful strike from just outside the box. Despite Udinese's efforts for a consolation goal Handanovic refused to be beaten and Inter picked up their second 4 goal victory of the season.
Mancini and the players deserve a lot of credit for this win. Mancini had managed this squad spectacularly and pretty much every player has had a chance to show himself to the coach. This was Montoya's turn and he put in a strong attacking display to show Mancini that he has another tool in his tactical arsenal. The players deserve credit as well, they did not have the most impressive collective outing but they were ruthless when chances were presented to them.
Now we all get to celebrate another big victory and see what happens tomorrow. Personally I would prefer a Roma win and a Fiorentina draw. Let us know what results you would prefer and other general comments on the match below!