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Inter Milan 2-1 Bologna: The race is on

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Inter found the going tough against a well-disciplined Bologna outfit, but they eventually sealed a fundamental win through two set-piece goals towards the end.

Marco Luzzani/Getty Images

Inter walked out at San Siro on Saturday night in the hope of continuing their ambitious attempt to reach third place in the Serie A table with the knowledge that failure to win would pretty much knock them out of the running ahead of the big match away to Roma. Roberto Mancini persisted with the 4-2-3-1 system he has been favouring in recent weeks, although Eder took the place of Rodrigo Palacio after recovering from the cramp that had forced him off in the Coppa Italia against Juventus. The other changes from the XI that beat Palermo saw Juan Jesus replace Jeison Murillo in central defence, relegated to the bench due to a small injury issue, and Marcelo Brozovic come in for Geoffrey Kondogbia, who was one booking away from missing the trip to the Stadio Olimpico next weekend through suspension. Roberto Donadoni kept faith with the 4-3-3 system he has used ever since taking over from Delio Rossi, with Luca Rizzo replacing the unavailable Anthony Mounier in a side that featured three ex-Inter players in Ibrahim Mbaye, Saphir Taider and Mattia Destro.

Before tonight's match Bologna had kept clean-sheets in 17 of the 18 first halves they have played since Donadoni arrived, so it was always unlikely that the deadlock would be broken early on, but Inter didn't even have much of a chance to break that run, because most of the opening quarter-hour was used up by two enforced substitutions. After just five minutes Mauro Icardi was forced to come off after spraining his right knee, as he tried to tap in Eder's cross-shot, with the Argentine visibly in pain. Tests will be undertaken next week to find out how serious the injury is, but the early signs were not promising. Geoffrey Kondogbia replaced him, shortly before Mattia Destro was also forced to leave the pitch with physical problems.

The tempo of the game was slow at the start, with Bologna happy to sit deep in Inter's half and wait for the opportunity to counter, and the away team did just that after 20 minutes when Godfred Donsah wastefully fired over. After that the first period was all about the home team as they pushed hard for the opening goal, with Antonio Mirante saving from Eder and Ljajic while Daniel Gastaldello denied Brozovic a tap-in on the half-hour. A series of half-chances was all a determined Bologna conceded to us in the next few minutes, but they then started to press with less intensity and Inter came on very strong just as the half came to an end, Eder and Miranda both seeing audacious efforts finish wide of the post.

Unfortunately, the second half began in a very different manner as Bologna came out rejuvenated and took the initiative. Donsah remained the visitors' most dangerous player, but did not ever force Samir Handanovic into making a save as the game slipped towards a very disappointing stalemate. Up until the final twenty minutes neither side seemed to have it in them to even have a shot on goal, let alone score, with Inter having dropped their intensity markedly and Bologna unable to capitalise on their excellent defensive organisation. A lot of avoidable errors crept into the game as the two sides cancelled each other out, and it really did look as if both were going to have to settle for a goalless draw, which would have been Bologna's fourth 0-0 result in a row.

With 18 minutes left however the breakthrough was finally made, as Inter circumvented their absolute impotence from open play to score from a set piece. Bologna were the only team in Serie A before tonight who had not conceded a goal from a corner, but Perisic broke that long record when he headed in from close range after a flick-on from Danilo D'Ambrosio - and within four minutes they'd conceded another one, as D'Ambrosio got his own name on the scoresheet from another left-sided delivery. Bologna kept trying right to the end and could have reopened the match when Luca Rizzo saw two shots blocked from inside Inter's box, and eventually they did find the net through substitute Franco Brienza. The veteran took advantage of a terrible error from Geoffrey Kondogbia, who replaced the stricken Icardi early on, to bring the away side back into proceedings, but thankfully it was too late and the game finished 2-1 to Inter.

The win keeps us in the hunt for the Champions League qualification places, leaving us two points behind Roma (ahead of their match tomorrow) before next weekend's head-to-head clash at the Stadio Olimpico. Unfortunately Rodrigo Palacio will be suspended for that match after picking up a booking at the end, while Icardi will probably be unavailable as well after his injury tonight, which means Eder will need to step up and make the centre-forward role his own. The negatives from this match are that he didn't really do that here, and that our attacking play seemed to be far less fluid and effortless than in previous matches - perhaps because Icardi went off so early. The performance was not a wholly convincing one this evening, especially after the umpteenth goal we've gifted in that manner to our opponents in 2016, and Mancini would do well to not be overly satisfied with what he saw this evening. Ultimately though the win was the only thing that really mattered, which makes it four consecutive home wins in a row in Serie A (or five, if you include the Juventus game in the Coppa Italia) and keeps our season well and truly alive.

Man of the Match? I'd say Miranda, because we would most likely collapse without him.