After the midweek win over Sparta Prague, Inter welcomed Genoa to the San Siro. The Curva was back after boycotting the Europa League match, and they were eager to see their side win today. Stefano Pioli also expected his side to do much better than their last showing in Serie A, knowing another loss would start to crank up the heat on the Italian manager.
Pioli stuck with the 3-4-3 that he used in midweek. Jeison Murillo, Miranda, and Danilo D’Ambrosio protected Samir Handanovic in goal. Joao Mario and Marcelo Brozovic were in midfield flanked by Antonio Candreva and Yuto Nagatomo. Up front Mario Icardi was supported by Eder and surprise starter Gabriel Barbosa. I’m just kidding there’s no way he would start, the surprise starter was Rodrigo Palacio.
It was obvious pretty early on that this Inter side wasn’t fully comfortable with Pioli’s setup. The team was able to maintain possession but seemed a little unsure what to do with the ball. Candreva was pushing pretty far forward making the formation look like a 4-2-4 at times, and at first the midfielders were struggling to link up with the attackers. The problems were made to look worse by some poor touches by Eder and Palacio when the ball did get to the front line, neither of the two were making Pioli’s decision to start them look like a good one.
The first real chance of the match arrived in the 19th minute, Darko Lazović got past Murillo and when his shot made it past Handanovic D’Ambrosio had clear the ball before Lucas Ocampos could tap it in. Five minutes later three Genoa players had the chance to put in a cross but they all tried to be too fancy and wasted the opportunity, and a minute later Handanovic had to stop an Ocampos header from giving the away side the lead. In the 37th minute Icardi saw his first effort of the match deflected wide and from the ensuing corner Inter took the lead. The ball wasn't cleared and ended up at the edge of the box and Brozovic was on hand to curl it on the ground into the bottom corner.
This was very much a smash and grab first half. The home side looked lost up until the goal, but after that the midfielders finally seemed to settle down on the ball and get some degree of control over the match. Despite things getting a little better in the final few minutes of the half Pioli recognized there was a problem in midfield and looked to rectify the situation at the break, sending on Felipe Melo to replace an ineffective Eder.
Genoa pushed for an equalizer at the start of the secong half. Ocampos and Giovanni Simeone both came close before Handanovic had to save a chipped effort from Lazovic. At this point Pioli went back to his bench pulling an equally ineffective Palacio for Ivan Perisic (who to be perfectly honest wasnt all that much better during his time on the pitch).
Around this point in the match the game really stopped a tactical battle in any dense. The passing was sloppy by both sides and space was so open due to mistakes by everyone that either team could've scored a couple if they were even marginally clinical. Just to list some examples Mattia Perin dallied on the ball too long and Icardi was almost able to take advantage of it and after that Lazovic was able to beat Nagatomo with ease in order to square the ball into the box but was unable to pick out any Genoa players. This was on top of the usual wasted crosses by Candreva and Perisic (there must be some magic in Inter jerseys to take what used to be capable crossers and turn them into...really inaccurate crossers).
Finally somebody was able to finish off a chance and it was the man who had scored earlier. In the 69th minute Joao Mario beat a Genoa defender on the counter and (literally) slipped a pass to Brozovic. The Croatian midfielder had all the time he needed to control the ball, look up, and slot home giving his side a 2-0 lead. Genoa tried to score ahain mainly through Simeone but Inter was able to weather the storm and walk away with the win.
Pioli will have to give the 3-4-3 some thought before using it again. While a 3 man backline does have some promise, especially once Medel returns, he'll need to find the proper balance in midfield to make sure the attack isn't totally isolated and forced to feed off long-balls. Also flanking Icardi with competent attackers wouldn't hurt. For now though Pioli and the fans can smile about a clean sheet and three points. Up next is a trip to take on Sassuolo.