Inter traveled to Palermo hoping for three points and a relatively simple win against a Palermo side struggling in the relegation zone. They got the three points but not the easy victory.
Stefano Pioli stuck with his preferred fullback duo of Danilo D’Ambrosio and Cristian Ansaldi, while Miranda and Jeison Murillo started at the heart of the defense over Gary Medel. Roberto Gagliardini kept his starting spot and partnered Marcelo Brozovic, while Ivan Perisic, Ever Banega, and Antonio Candreva supported Mauro Icardi up top.
The home side started brightly, attacking Inter down the flanks and putting in fairly threatening crosses but the Nerazzurri were up for the task. In the 11th minute Miranda opted to go direct and sent a long ball to Mauro Icardi who controlled it well but his left footed shot was weakly directed right at Josip Posavec. Inter kinda struggled to grab a hold of the match early on, some of the passing (and a lot of the crossing) was off. Some of the players probably blamed the pitch though, the constant rain made the pitch a lot slicker than what they were expecting.
As the half progressed the away side began to put some pressure on Palermo. The Inter players had some good interplay in front of and around the box in the 22nd minute, eventually finding Candreva whose powerful shot was aimed right at Posavec’s head and just slapped away. Immediately after that Ansaldi picked up a yellow card for sliding into Bruno Henrique. Inter had their best chance of the half in the 27th, a corner was taken short and Posavec had to fly to deny a classic Brozovic curling effort from outside the box; the rebound fell to Icardi though his snap header went just over the bar. Alessandro Gazzi almost conceded an own goal in the 38th minute when he slid to stop a Brozovic cross but Posavec stopped the ball in time. Despite all of the away side’s chances, the first half ended level.
There were no changes for either side at the break and the second half started the way the first ended with Inter pushing for the opening goal. Perisic had the first chance of the second half but his shot was easily saved. Thiago Cionek and Gazzi had to make crucial touches to prevent Miranda and Gagliardini from scoring in back to back corners in the 53rd minute. In the 61st minute Gagliardini sent a ball through for Icardi but it was just ahead of the Argentine and his poked shot was saved. Before that attempt Pioli made his first change of the match, replacing Ever Banega with Joao Mario. In my opinion Banega had a very mixed game. He played some beautiful passes but also had some very wayward ones thrown in as well. The move paid dividends 10 minutes later when J. Mario volleyed home a Candreva cross. The Italian international finally decided to cross with his left foot instead of twisting and turning to find his stronger foot and that decision worked out well.
Inter seemed to be cruising towards the win when Ansaldi slid into Ilija Nestorovski and there was a (quite painful) meeting of the knees. Though Nestorovski got to the ball first it looked like a 50-50 challenge but the referee opted to show the Inter fullback a second yellow card and sent him off. Stefano Pioli vehemently protested the dismissal and for his arguments he was also dismissed and had to watch the remainder of the game from the stands. The home side was filled with confidence that they could snatch an equalizer and poured forward hoping for a goal. In the 83rd minute they got that goal when Alessandro Diamanti played a quick free kick to Robin Quaison who blasted past Samir Handanovic but the referee still had his back turned organizing the wall and hadn’t given permission to take the free kick yet so the goal was disallowed (and Diamanti was booked for it).
Despite some nervous defending in the last few minutes by Inter Handanovic was never tested by the Palermo attack. Inter had a chance or two on the counter but they were usually ruined by poor final passes. In the final seconds of the match Gazzi picked up a second booking of his own so the match ended 0-1 with both sides reduced to 10 men.
This was a pretty ugly win. Inter had to fight for the three points but it wasn’t only due to stout defending by Palermo, it was also because the passing and linkup play that has been so fluid in the previous matches seemed off today. I’m not sure if it was because of the wet pitch, because of changes to the starting lineup, fatigue, or just because these good runs of form never last forever. Either way the team still got the win so I’m happy for today but we’ll need to see improvements for the next match at home against Pescara.