Both teams needed a win today, but for different reasons. Atalanta lost four consecutive matches and the three points would have helped them climb the table to avoid the possibility of slipping into the relegation zone, while Inter wanted a victory to not lose ground on Juve and Napoli in the race for the Scudetto.
From the very first minute, it was clear that something wasn't right for Inter's defense. Murillo in particular looked less focused than usual, conceding too much space to the opponents and making some careless touches which helped Atalanta creating dangerous plays near the Inter area. The bad beginning of the match for him reached its apex in the 17th minute when Dramè, after speeding through two Inter players, passed the ball inside the other Nerazzurri's box and Jeison deflcted it past Handanovic with a clunky sliding tackle which left the keeper with no chance on this occasion.
The following minutes were terrible. Murillo looked shocked after his error and Atalanta tried to take advantage of that creating a few chances from his side, but fortunately for Mancini's men all their efforts were unsuccessful. The poor performances by the Inter midfielders in this half surely didn't help the Colombian who needed Telles' help many times to push back Atalanta's attacking plays.
Thankfully for our Nerazzurri, Rafael Toloi decided to do the exact same thing Murillo did just 8 minutes earlier and put the ball into his own net with a goofy attempt at clearing his area after a good cross by Maurito Icardi, who turns almost any ball he touches into golden chances to score for him or the others and in this case propitiated Toloi's own goal.
Surprisingly in the first 45 minutes of the match, the strongest part of Inter's game was the ball movement, while they lacked terribly in defensive solidity, i.e. the number one reason why they can brag about being in second place right now. As I said before, the midfield played horribly. Guarin, Medel, and Brozovic put up an ugly performance with lots of ball lost and wrong touches and they were overplayed almost every time by Atalanta's men in the middle, but the three up front were on the same page and they always found each other in good positions with quick and accurate passes which were the only reason this match was worth watching.
The second half started in the exact same way the first one ended. The home team wanted to score right away and did all they could to achieve that. Fortunately for us, they found one of the best goalkeeper of the world in their path, who is in an incredible period of form and today he delivered another great performance with two jaw-dropping, physics-defying saves which left everyone who was watching the match astonished. The first came on a Cigarini volley who was just a few feet away from the goal-line which was rejected by the Slovenian keeper's feet; the second one was on a insidious header by Martin De Roon and Batmanovic had to use his incredible reflexes to pull the ball over the crossbar to avoid the goal.
Mancini was obviously not pleased by the performance of his team and he decided to make two bold subs to change the result in his favor. Perisic replaced the disappointing - and ready to leave - Guarin, while Biabiany took Telles' place, forcing the squad to reshape in a 3-4-1-2 formation with D'Ambrosio who joined Murillo and Miranda as the third centre-back. Neither side were able to change the result again before the final whistle, despite both tried to do it with all they energy they had until the very last moment.
This is the second consecutive match were Inter play good attacking football, thanks especially to Adem Ljajic who seems to have found his spot in this team, but in the end they aren't able to bring home the three points because of to many crucial defensive errors, which is the exact opposite from what they showed in the first half of the season. As I said many times before, this team still has a long way to go to claim a spot in the Scudetto run. They showed us they can be a good attacking squad with great defensive solidity, unfortunately though, they failed to do be both things in the same match and that's what they need to become in order to make the next and final step to greatness.
Atalanta: Sportiello; Masiello, Toloi, Cherubin; Drame, Cigarini, De Roon, Kurtic (82' Migliaccio), Conti (74' Bellini); Monachello, Gomez (85' Diamanti);
Goal: 17' Murillo (OG)
Inter: Handanovic; D’Ambrosio, Miranda, Murillo, Telles (70' Biabiany); Brozovic, Medel, Guarin (58' Perisic); Ljajic, Icardi, Jovetic (84' Palacio);
Goal: 25' Rafael Toloi (OG)