With the team not having much to play for anymore these last few matches are becoming more of an evaluative period, a chance for Mancini to see who should stick around and who shouldn't. The previous couple of games have not given him too much to look forward to next season and he hoped that the team would put on a good showing against Hellas Verona. Thankfully for them, for him, and for the fans, the players did.
The only real changes to the usual starting 11 were that Vidic paired with Ranocchia as CBs so Juan Jesus played on the flank, while Hernanes took the trequartista position instead of Shaqiri or Kovacic.
Inter started aggressively as usual but this time the team was able to make an early breakthrough, although it was somewhat controversial how they did. While D'Ambrosio had the ball Tachtsidis went down and instead of putting the ball out for him to get treatment he passed the ball to Palacio who crossed for Icardi to tap in. The home fans and players protested but seeing as there is no rule requiring the opposing team to put the ball out (and since he magically got up just fine before the whistle to restart play) the goal stood and Inter were up 1-0 after 11 minutes.
Verona tried to push back for an equalizer but were unable to really pressure Handanovic in goal, and soon Inter were back in control with Brozovic almost doubling the away side's lead, flashing a shot just wide after being set up by Palacio.
The only other important events in the first half were the bookings of Brozovic and Guarin. Due to yellow card accumulation they both will miss the Derby Della Madonnina next weekend.
Inter managed to extend their lead in the 49th minute. A Hernanes driving run (one of many) ended with him laying off the ball to Icardi, who one-time crossed it for Palacio to slide home.
Suddenly, Verona woke up and made Handanovic earn his paycheck. First he made a good double save from Obbadi and Moras, then Vidic gave away an unnecessary penalty. When Luca Toni stepped up and the entire stadium expected the game to be back on, Handanovic showed once again why he is a penalty-saving specialist and parried it wide.
Palacio had a chance from a D'Ambrosio cross but his shot ended up hitting the post. But D'Ambrosio would get his assist on the night, another cross late on in the match being turned into the net by a Verona player, Moras. The match ended a comfortable 3-0 win for Inter.
Good, Meh, Bad
Hernanes: In my last article on the future of the Inter players, I talked about how we haven't seen much of the Hernanes of his Lazio days. Well that man made an appearance today, and reminded us of what he can really do. He made a number of driving runs that caused the Verona defense a lot of problems, his passing was calm and composed, and he was involved in pretty much every good passage of play Inter had. He earned a starting spot in the Milan Derby next weekend and I hope that the same player shows up to that game that we saw today.
Palacio: The energizer bunny. At one point he was stealing the ball back at his own corner flag and then flying down the pitch to set up a chance on the counter. He has really come back into form and was at his best today, playing in his teammates, confusing defenders, assisting Icardi, and getting a goal for himself. An in-form Palacio is really a joy to watch and I hope he keeps it up the rest of the season.
Handanovic: Please don't leave us Handa. After not having much to do in the first part of the match, he decided to put on his best Gandalf impression and made sure he did not have to pick the ball out of the back of his net. His penalty save was masterclass and he showed once again why he is the best goalkeeper in the league and one of the best in Europe. Again, please don't leave...
Icardi: When everyone in the box was looking to see if the ball would be put out of play, he was making a run and scoring a goal. It's that ruthlessness that has him one goal off the top of the Serie A scoring charts. He also set up Palacio to score with a gorgeous cross and did well as the lone target man once Palacio was substituted. Overall a great performance from the young striker.
Vidic: He was so close to being in the Good category. I was going to talk about how Mancini made a great decision to play him in this match, how having a tall, strong, and experienced defender to deal with Luca Toni was the perfect match-up, and how he barely put a foot wrong the entire match. All that was true up until the 76th minute when he tripped up Greco (who had already over-hit the ball and was going nowhere) to concede a needless penalty. Luckily for him, Handanovic saved his penalty and made sure the headlines in the morning weren't calling for his head again (and you can see the relief in Vidic's face in the picture at the top). Vidic can do good here as his overall performance today showed but he needs to cut out these errors.
Brozovic and Guarin (Derby Suspensions): Both yellow cards were unnecessary and I'm sure Mancini warned all the players not to do anything stupid today because of the upcoming Milan Derby. But both players had small moments of madness and let their team down. Hopefully the team can cope with their absences next weekend.
This was the type of win that the team needed. A win right before the Derby should do well to inspire the fans to come out for the team and for the players to put on their best performance next weekend. Without Brozovic and Guarin changes will have to be made (I'm hoping for a midfield trio of Hernanes-Medel-Kovacic) but the team is good enough to get a win against our rivals as the game today reaffirmed. AC Milan should be nervous, because the real Inter might just be coming back.