Inter hosted Palermo today in a match where both sides really needed all three points. The home side was looking to show that their great performance against Juventus in the Coppa Italia wasn't just a one-off, while the visitors were hoping to put a little more breathing room between themselves and a relegation zone that was only one point away. Palermo had never won in Serie A against Inter at the San Siro so history was not on their side, and history repeated itself today.
Roberto Mancini used a 4231 formation in this match. Since Handanovic had the flu Carrizo played in his second consecutive match, with a back four of D'Ambrosio, Miranda, Murillo, and Nagatomo (a fullback combination which Mancini seems to be favoring recently). One would've expected to see Brozovic in the starting lineup given his heroics midweek but he wasn't fully fit so Kondogbia and Medel sat in front of the defense. The front four saw Icardi up top with Ljajic, Palacio, and Perisic playing behind him.
Inter got on the scoresheet after only 11 minutes, Ljajic picked up the ball centrally and beat two defenders before hitting into the bottom left corner from 25 yards out. Palermo tried to respond quickly and a Kondogbia error allowed them a counterattacking opportunity but they were unable to make anything of it and were punished for that. In the 23rd minute Palacio sent in a cross from the right flank that Icardi was able to touch into the back of the net. Despite Inter's dominance in the first half Palermo were allowed the opportunity to get back into the match on the stroke of halftime. Rispoli was able to send in a cross and Vazquez fired home despite Carrizo getting a touch on the ball.
Hope can be a dangerous thing and the second half started with a hopeful Palermo side trying to take the game to Inter. It looked like the away side was really starting to make Inter fans nervous when the Nerazzurri restored their two goal lead. Icardi sent in a one-time cross to the far post and Perisic finished off the move with a diving header. Palacio almost got a goal of his own from a Brozovic free kick in the 71st minute, but Sorrentino was able to keep out the Argentine's header. Carrizo had to be on his toes to deny Vazquez late on but that opportunity was all the fightback that Palermo could muster and the match ended 3-1.
There were a lot of positives to take out of this match. Besides a couple of errors on the ball Kondogbia had a fairly dominant performance in the midfield. Ljajic and Palacio both had great games, their creativity and ability to roam really caused the Palermo defense a lot of problems. Icardi also had a match to remember, showcasing all of his abilities. He was clinical in front of goal, he was strong when receiving the ball with his back to goal, and his movement was great both when making darting runs near post for crosses but also when coming out wide to stretch the defense (such as when he provided the cross for Perisic).
This win will be a good stepping stone for the remainder of the season. The win against Juventus gave the team confidence, and now the victory today will show that they have not given up on 3rd place and will continue to fight until the end in order to return to the Champions League. Inter are currently still in 5th place, but only two points behind Fiorentina and five points behind Roma in that coveted 3rd spot. Mancini will be satisfied with this performance but especially happy that the team scored three goals for the second consecutive match. If the offense continues to click then Inter will be much more likely to reach their goal, and their next opportunity to snap at the heels of the teams above them will be Saturday when they face Bologna.