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Inter Milan 2-0 Napoli: Brilliance all around

First half goals from Icardi and Brozovic secured a win and put both Roma and Fiorentina on alert for these final matches.

Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images

For both teams today, a win was the only result they wanted. Both were wishfully looking up the table at targets that were seemingly out of reach, Napoli looking to overcome Juventus for the title and Inter hunting down Roma for the final Champions League spot, and both knew that a loss (or even a draw) would put their respective dreams to bed. This had all of the signs of a thrilling contest, and with the pressure on Mancini and the players stepped up and executed their plan to stifle their opponents perfectly to not only win, but secure a clean sheet as well.

Mancini opted to match Sarri's 433 formation for this game. Handanovic was protected by the now standard back four of D'Ambrosio, Miranda, Murillo, and Nagatomo (who I'm sure were all incredibly thankful that they did not have to face Higuain today). The midfield was also pretty typical, with Medel protecting the defense while Kondogbia and Brozovic had license to link up with the attack, which was comprised of Perisic, Icardi, and Jovetic.

The home side got off to the best possible start. In the fourth minute Medel played a ball over the top to Icardi who controlled it and put it in the back of the net to give Inter an early lead. Napoli responded by claiming a monopoly of possession and trying to find a way to break through an Inter defense that was as resolute as what was seen in the first half of the season. The defenders cleared any crosses that came into the box, the midfielder pressed and harassed the Napoli players, and though quite a few free kicks were conceded they never really troubled Handanovic. This was largely due to the fact that despite officially using a 433 formation, when defending Inter would change into a 442 with Perisic dropping into the midfield and Brozovic becoming a right-sided midfielder who would shift into the heart of midfield when the ball was there. This allowed the home side to press and choke Napoli's ability to pass the ball around midfield, while also providing cover for the fullbacks against Napoli's wingers.

The few times Handanovic did have to act in the first half, they were to save long range efforts. As Napoli began to get frustrated in the final minutes of the half Inter emerged from their defensive shell and probed at the Napoli goal through Jovetic and Perisic. Just as it looked like Inter would go into the break up one goal and needing to survivie another 45 minutes of Napoli attacks, Brozovic doubled the lead. In the 44th minute Jovetic played in Icardi who flicked the ball with the outside of his boot to Brozovic and the Croatian beat Reina to send the nerazzurri into the break up two goals.

The away side tried to pull a goal back in the second half but once again they were left frustrated, their best chance coming when Callejon sent a volley just wide of the far post with Handanovic rooted to the spot. Inter also had a great opportunity to extend their lead when Reina spilled a ball and it fell to Jovetic; unfortunately his chip was headed off the line by Koulibaly. The only other notable event that occured before the final whistle was blown was that Kondogbia picked up a booking which means he will miss the next game against Genoa.

This was an all-around magnificent performance. The defense showed the fortitude that propelled this team to the top of the table in the first half of the season. Kondogbia had a great showing and often put the Napoli midfield in a panic when he drove the ball forward. Icardi and Perisic had typically productive matches and probably most importantly, Jovetic showed that he can have a understanding with the Argentine striker and their linkup play was beautiful. If this team plays in the final five matches the way they did today then Roma had better watch out (and Fiorentina can forget about catching us again).