Following the win against Palermo, Inter traveled to Bergamo to take on Atalanta. Now the Milanese side had not won away to Atalanta since 2008, which ironically was the last time Mancini was the manager. So going into the match there were two questions in most fan's minds: Who's streak would continue, Inter's winless or Mancini's winning streak? And which Inter would show up, the one that put 3 goals past Palermo or the one that capitulated against Torino, Sassuolo, or Napoli? With Icardi out with a gastrointestinal problem there were some worries about who would score the goals for the side but (somewhat surprisingly) it was Fredy Guarin who stepped up and carried the team to victory.
In one of Inter's first attacks Guarin was brought down in the box, and the referee pointed to the spot. Xherdan Shaqiri was the one to take the penalty and he struck it low to his left. The Atalanta goalie got a hand to it but couldn't keep it out and Inter took the early lead in the second minute of the match.
The half was surprisingly physical and fairly open, with the midfielders doing well to close down when Inter lost possession, but the defense looking a little shaky when Atalanta players were running at them. Mauricio Pinilla gave the Inter defense a warning after missing on an open net opportunity. Atalanta did draw level in the first half though, Pinilla flicked on a long ball to Moralez, who hit a left-footed half-volley that found its way in off the post in the 28th minute.
A few minutes later Inter responded through Guarin. He picked up the ball, cut inside and curled in a beautiful left-footed shot from 20 yards out. Now typically when the Colombian international takes a shot from outside the box the birds have to watch out, but this one was low, well-placed, and absolutely deserving to retake the lead in the match.
Interesting side note: During the first half Shaqiri and Moralez were both booked for a little shoving match they got into. Before anything could escalate further, Guarin had ran over and separated Shaqiri and tried to calm them down. Just another little positive from the Colombian's performance.
The second half saw any chance of another Atalanta equalizer dashed to almost nothing, with Yohan Benalouane getting sent off in the 52nd minute. He first was booked for hacking down Palacio, then decided to mouth off to the referee. Now I'm always against talking back to the refs, he won't reverse his ruling and usually won't influence later calls but sometimes people get a little heated and just want to speak their minds. But this referee was already not in the mood and when I saw the way he was talking and getting in the ref's face I thought he was asking for it and honestly wasn't surprised in the slightest that he was sent off. (Oh also I'm going to try to find a gif of Palacio's face when he sees the red card. Basically its like "wow, I wasn't expecting that...cool!")
Palacio had a golden chance to double Inter's lead in the 57th minute, with a Guarin cross leaving him 1-1 with the goalie only for him to shoot over the bar, though he might have been expecting an offside flag. Guarin took it upon himself to extend the lead, with Atalanta again giving him too much space outside the box. This time he blasted a shot from 25 yards out with his right foot.
At this point it was 3-1 against 10 men and pretty much over. Shaqiri was denied a second goal from the Atalanta goalie and Palacio got his name on the score-sheet pretty luckily. Guarin sent in a through ball for Palacio and when Stendardo slid to clear the ball, it struck Palacio's shin and went in. From there the team cruised to a comfortable 4-1 victory.
Things to Note:
- Kovacic was on the bench for this match and honestly, I forgot he wasn't playing. With Shaqiri now in the side, the team is not as dependent on his creativity as they were before. Though he might have just been getting rested for the game against Celtic on Thursday he might have been a little nervous looking on in this game trying to see where his place is in the starting 11 now (though when he came on he did spend most of his time on the left wing so that might be where Mancini will try to squeeze him in).
- Shaqiri was left with a lot of space playing in the hole behind the two strikers and for the most part he made it count, running at the Atalanta defense whenever had the opportunity and trying to play in the strikers. He and Guarin had a good understanding of each other during the match and Shaqiri might find himself playing in this position more often (again possibly to the detriment of Kovacic).
- Guarin had an absolute monster performance today. I usually don't single people out for a man of the match but he has earned an exception. The midfielder had a hand in every goal Inter scored (won the penalty for the first, scored the second and third, and got the assist for the fourth). He also linked up well with his fellow midfielders and even showed a bit of leadership by trying to calm Shaqiri down during his altercation in the first half. Guarin has really been improving since Mancini returned to the club and performances like this are what this side needs to drag itself up the Serie A table.
Mancini should be very proud of his players, they stepped up against a team that has been historically hard to beat and put on a dominate display. The side should be very confident going into the Europa League match against Celtic and if they play like they did today, the match should be winnable.
Atalanta 1-4 Inter
Scorers: Shaqiri (2-pen), Moralez (27), Guarin (37, 63), Palacio (72)
Atalanta: Sportiello; Masiello, Stendardo, Benalouane, Bellini; Zappacosta, Cignarini (Emanuelson 75), Carmona, Gomez (Baselli 58); Moralez (Denis 45); Pinilla
Unused Subs: Avramov, Del Grosso, Scaloni, D'Alessandro, Migliaccio, Bianchi, Biava, Grassi, Boayke
Coach: Stefano Colantuono
Inter: Handanovic; Campagnaro, Ranocchia, Juan Jesus, Santon; Guarin, Medel, Brozovic (Kuzmanovic 82); Shaqiri (Kovacic 68); Podolski, Palacio (Hernanes 76)
Unused Subs: Carrizo, Berni, Kovacic, Vidic, Obi, Dodo, Puscas, Donkor,
Coach: Roberto Mancini