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Fiorentina 2-1 Inter Milan: The road doesn't get any better from here, so Inter must

A late goal condemned Inter to another loss which leaves them in fifth place and AC Milan breathing down their necks.

Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

I'm writing this in the immediate aftermath of the final whistle and I don't know how I fell right now. I guess it's a combination of frustration, disgust, resignation, and expectation. Yes the referee screwed the team over with an entirely undeserved second yellow for Telles but that doesn't explain away why the team is in the situation it finds itself in now. Poor referee decisions cannot explain why Inter has one win in the last seven matches. Poor referee decisions cannot explain why Inter have the least goals scored out of any side in the top seven. Poor referee decisions cannot explain why Inter have conceded eleven goals in their last five matches in all competitions. There are serious flaws in this side, flaws that cannot be excused by pointing fingers at the referees or even by pointing fingers solely at Mancini. This season is derailing fast, and unless the manager and players change the playing style and recent mentality we might end up seeing another reset at the end of the season.

Mancini stuck with a 433 for this match. Miranda returned to partner Murillo at the heart of the defense flanked by Nagatomo and Telles. Brozovic, Medel, and Kondogbia made up the midfield while Palacio, Icardi, and Eder were the three attackers.

Fiorentina started brightly and Inter had no real way of stopping their quick passing game in the early minutes, with Bernardeschi pulling the strings and controlling the match. The Italian thought he had got an early assist when he pulled the ball back for Ilicic, but the resulting shot was basically cleared off the line by Telles. Before that goal-saving slide the Inter fullback was booked for pulling back Tello, while Medel was also booked for protesting a non-booking for a challenge on Kondogbia which prevented a counterattack.

Despite Fiorentina controlling the match Inter took the lead in the 26th minute. Kondogbia played in Palacio and his cutback was lashed into the top right corner by Brozovic.  After the goal Inter began to grow in confidence and got more of a hold on the match while Fiorentina's passing game faltered a little bit. The first half ended with Inter in the lead and with the away side suggesting that they might be back to their old way of snatching 1-0 victories.

The second half began with Fiorentina pushing for an equalizer and Inter holding out fairly well, but that changed in the 60th minute. Ilicic sent in a cross and though Miranda tried to flick it away, it fell in the path of Borja Valero who headed in to level the scoreline. Things got even worse in the 81st minute when the referee produced a second yellow card for Telles even though his challenge got enough ball to make a foul a debatable call, let alone a second yellow. The Inter players were rocking at this point and hoping to cling to a draw but even that would not go their way. In stoppage time ex-Nerazzurri player Mauro Zarate's shot was saved by Handanovic but the rebound fell to Babacar who gave Fiorentina all three points on his second attempt. After the final whistle was blown Kondogbia was sent off as well for sarcastically applauding the referee.

At this point we have to start to admit that the first half of the season was probably an anomaly. The defense was incredible, Handanovic played in the form of his life, and the team would usually score a goal out of nothing. Back then that was enough to win games. But now teams understand that this team doesn't have a free-flowing attack or a functional midfield  so they know that if the defense slips up they have a great chance of walking away from games with a point or three. Now that our defense has proven to be mortal all the problems that were being masked over are coming to light. One could argue that these players are better than recent results (and individually they probably are) but this team as a whole is not as good as the first half of the season indicated.

It is still possible for Inter to end the season in 3rd place. The team is only four points away from Fiorentina with 13 matches left to play, that's 52 points left on the table. The problem is that Fiorentina is not the only side we have to worry about, Roma is one point ahead of us and AC Milan is now just two points back. The only advantage we have is that Roma and Fiorentina how have to worry about the Champions League and Europa League while the two Milan sides will have most weekdays off. It's possible for Inter to reach the Champions League, but now it's really hard. This season can still be salvaged but both Mancini and the players have to work fast and turn this run of form around if they want to avoid another "Year Zero". Saturday's match against Sampdoria would be a good place to start.