Inter kickstarted their Europa League campaign on Thursday night with a vital win over Southampton at San Siro, although there was certainly room for improvement in the performance offered up by Frank de Boer side. Below are our player ratings for a match that turned out to be far more about substance than style for the Nerazzurri, but which ultimately yielded the only result we could realistically afford.
Handanovic - 7.5
A classic Batmanovic performance just when his teammates and his coach needed it the most. The face save on Austin at the end was miraculous, almost surreal, but it's what we've come to expect from him. Several fundamental interventions to secure a nervy win.
Nagatomo - 6
He played his part in the dogged rearguard action at the end with a crucial goal-line clearance to preserve the lead, with a sufficient defensive performance for the rest of the match. Clearly we could do with better regulars than him if we want to win anything though.
Miranda - 7
After an early misjudgement of a long ball which sent Southampton through on goal, he dominated the backline with the kind of performances that sends shivers down your neck. It's a great feeling having this guy in your team - if De Boer has any sense then he will use him in all of the remaining Europa League group games, because we can't go anywhere without him. No resting please. None.
Murillo - 5.5
With each week that passes the more you begin to wonder if the Murillo we saw during the first five months of last season was some kind of a mirage. He wasn't punished particularly for any of the mistakes he made but this wasn't his finest night - thank goodness he has Miranda alongside him.
Santon - 6
He had big trouble with Cuco Martina in the first half, although that can't just be his fault and no one else's, before improving a little in the second. His best contribution of the game was obviously in attack though, with a rare action in which he trusted his left foot and put the ball in the middle for Candreva to score.
Gnoukouri - 5.5
Not a great display from Assane, although his struggle was representative of the difficulty we had in midfield as a whole. He wasn't able to speed up the team's play like the man he replaced on Sunday, Banega, would probably have done.
Medel - 5
Not a good day for Pitbull either, but as with Gnoukouri he shouldn't be singled out. When Inter have those games in which their possession is unimaginative and laborious the Chilean always sticks out like a sore thumb, because he doesn't have a creative bone in his body. His performance always improves whenever there's someone alongside him to do the creative stuff for him, and nobody did that sufficiently here.
Brozovic - 5
Marcelo had a point to prove after missing over a month's worth of action due to his disciplinary issues, but he didn't prove it. Without Banega or Joao Mario in the middle it was up to him to step forward and become the fulcrum of our creative play, but as I feared he doesn't seem to have the personality and consistency of performance within a game to be that player. Not yet, anyway. He ran a lot but misplaced quite a few passes, and was eventually dismissed for two indisputable (and fairly similar) yellow cards. At least he's back on the pitch though; in-form Brozovic is a player who we can really benefit from.
Candreva - 6
Before he scored the goal he was heading for something below a 5, having been possibly the worst player on the pitch with no attacking contribution and a mind seemingly elsewhere. Thankfully though he did score the goal, and what a huge goal this could be for our Europa League campaign and season in general. And what a truly beautiful goal it was too, not everyone would have been capable of scoring that. Superb coordination and an inch-perfect finish.
Icardi - 6
He struggled with the rest of the team during the first half as Southampton imposed themselves, but was representative of the psychological step the players made after half-time. Only two chances fell to him all game but he played like a captain should towards the end by running himself into the ground.
Eder - 5.5
He was one of the few who seemed to carry an attacking threat in the first half, but like Candreva on the other side he was sat so deep that it was extremely difficult for him or anyone else to pounce forward on the counterattack. Ineffective over the 85 minutes he played as a whole. No one can criticise his work-rate, but he was signed to increase the potency of our attack and hasn't done it yet. It's difficult to score goals when you're always playing miles away from the penalty box though.
Ansaldi - N/A
Not on long enough to warrant a grade, but he did embark upon one nice attacking run to relieve Southampton's pressure late on.
Perisic - N/A
See Ansaldi's comment.
D'Ambrosio - N/A
See Ansaldi's comment but remove the bit after the comma. Imagine D'Ambrosio ever doing that.
De Boer - 5.5
Not a particularly convincing response to the Cagliari defeat, but this really was one of those occasions where the result was all that mattered, and by hook or by crook his team delivered it. The first half was a difficult watch, with the team paralysed by nerves and too scared to commit men forward for fear of exposing themselves (albeit they didn't even cover the pitch that well in their deep formation), second to most loose balls and unwilling to take any risks that might have sped up a soberingly slow circulation of the ball. Mercifully though, things changed after half-time; we still weren't able to create much but the players believed in the possibility of winning more, and our ability - if you can call it that - to keep it at 0-0 when we were struggling meant that it was enough to wait for one of our players to invent a moment of magic to win us the game. Having gone in front Brozovic's red card really changed things, because before that we looked pretty comfortable but afterwards it was heart-in-mouths time again. De Boer therefore has questions to ask over the team's inability to create anything (leaving Banega out was a big risk, but which ultimately he got away with) and our marking from set pieces, but at least the team showed good character to hold onto the lead. It looked like a compact team which was trying their hardest, but that kind of performance won't suffice against either Atalanta or Torino in our upcoming league matches. Let's hope the final score gives these players a much-needed morale boost after a very difficult few days for all concerned.