Inter hosted Sassuolo today in the final match of the first half of the season. A win would have seen them crowned as Campioni d'Inverno for the first time since the Treble season, plus Fiorentina's loss would have allowed them to extend their lead over one of their rivals. Unfortunately that was not meant to be as Inter saw the perfect storm of wasteful finishing, a goalkeeper eager to put on a better show than Handanovic, and a late penalty that resulted an a loss and the chance for Napoli to jump to the top of the table and Juventus to catch the Nerazzurri.
Once again Mancini opted to match his opponent's formation and lined up in a 433, the defense was unchanged with D'Ambrosio, Miranda, Murillo, and Nagatomo in front of Handanovic. The midfield was made up of Kondogbia, Medel, and Brozovic while the front three saw Icardi flanked by Ljajic and Perisic.
Inter started with a catalog of chances. In the 4th minute Medel launched a ball over the top for Icardi to run onto but late pressure from Acerbi caused him to shoot wide. In the 5th minute a long throw in saw the ball make its way to Ljajic who ran across the face of goal and then also shot wide. A minute later Nagatomo sent a cross in for Perisic who tried an overhead kick but was also unable to test Consigli.
Sassuolo had chances of their own in the first half, mainly through two Sansone free kicks that forced strong one-handed saves from Handanovic. The Inter goalkeeper also had to be alert in the 21st minute to smother a close range Missiroli shot. Sandwiched between these chances was a free Ljajic header from the edge of the 6 yard box that went over the crossbar. Right before the end of the half Ljajic must have though he scored, curling a sweet strike from outside the area that Consigli somehow managed to get a hand to at the last second to barely turn around the post. The first half ended 0-0, though Mancini had to be fuming at the amount of chances his players wasted.
The second half continued like the first, both sides having chances and superb goalkeepers keeping the scoreline level. In the 62nd minute Consigli denied Ljajic again who also somehow shot wide from inside the box in the 76th minute. Handanovic responded with saves from Falcinelli and Floro Flores in the 65th and 82nd minutes. By the last 10 minutes Inter players were going all out for the win, forcing Consigli into another pair of great saves on Ljajic and Jovetic. Despite all this pressure, it was Sassuolo who managed to grab the late goal. In the last 90 seconds of stoppage time Miranda conceded a penalty. This time Handanovic couldn't save the team and Berardi was able to make sure his side ran away with all three points at the San Siro.
While on one hand the result is extremely disappointing, it seems like this was just one of those days where nothing goes right. On any other day the attackers would have put away a number of chances that had been wasted, and honestly, we were due to finally play against a goalkeeper in as good of form as Handanovic. A draw would have been a fair result but the game isn't always fair. It's extremely likely one of Napoli or Juventus will win today (if not both of them) so Inter will most likely not be "crowned" Campioni d'Inverno. It sucks but the team will live and hopefully use this performance to motivate them for the second half of the season.