Mauro Icardi was the best player on the pitch
What more can you say about Mauro Icardi? Inter’s star striker was once again the difference between a bitter draw (or worse) and Inter taking all three points on Sunday. Consider this, many view Milan’s Leonardo Bonucci to be one of the top center backs in the world. Icardi, despite being marked by Bonucci throughout the match, scored a hat trick to lead his team to victory.
The first goal was an easy tap-in, but Icardi’s second was anything but. The acrobatic finish will long live in the derby memories of Interisti everywhere. Icardi’s penalty winner showed just how much mental resilience the Argentine has. We all remember the last time Icardi faced Donnarumma on a penalty, so for him to put that aside and step up to convert the winner was extremely impressive, especially when it came just one day after Paulo Dybala’s penalty miss doomed Juventus to home loss against Lazio. Unlike Dybala yesterday, Icardi didn’t flinch. The Argentine kept his composure and won the match for his team.
Icardi was the difference again for Inter. That reality should never come as a surprise, but it’s ubiquity doesn’t make it any less enjoyable to see.
Another Milan Derby, another brilliant performance from Candreva
Antonio Candreva has been one of the most criticized Inter players so far this season, and rightfully so. While the Italian winger has not played well in the majority of Inter’s opening seven matches, Candreva was once again a star for Inter in a Derby della Madonnina.
Candreva very nearly put Inter ahead when he struck the crossbar early in the first half. He then played in a perfect cross to Mauro Icardi for Inter’s first goal. In the second half, Candreva played in another superb cross, this time to Matias Vecino, who really should’ve scored to double Inter’s advantage.
Although Candreva was subbed off for Joao Cancelo in the 73rd minute, it was a great performance altogether from the Italian — and one that adds to his collection of strong derby showings. Someone needs to convince Candreva that he’s playing Milan every week!
A strong start for Inter… finally!
Far too often this season, Inter have been slow out of the gates to start a match. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case on Sunday. While Milan may have had more possession, Inter were much the better side in the first half. The Nerazzurri’s defense was immense, holding Milan to without a shot on target until the 42nd minute. While Inter conceded space in the middle of the pitch, the defense in their final third was excellent. The solid first half performance was capped by Inter’s goal, which came from a brilliant Candreva cross.
While Milan played much better in the second half, and very nearly earned a point, Inter’s performance in the first half and last ten minutes was superb.
Inter struggled to adjust to Milan’s formation switch
While Inter were decidedly the better team in the first half, the Nerazzurri’s second half performance was pretty suspect, if we’re being honest. Montella’s switch to a 3-4-3 formation at the halftime interval gave Inter fits, especially when Suso drifted out wide on the right-hand side. Inter conceded way too much space to Milan, and it nearly cost them the win. Both goals were frustrating to watch, and a wonderful save from Samir Handanovic saved Inter from conceding another.
Simply put, Milan outplayed Inter in the second half. Fortunately, Mauro Icardi assured that it didn’t matter.
The results are there
While Spalletti’s Inter may seem like a work-in-progress, the results are there. After eight matches, Inter are in sole possession of second-place in the league table. They’ve dropped just two points on the season, are tied with Napoli and AS Roma for the fewest goals allowed, and own a seven point lead over fifth place Roma in the race for a Champions League spot. That’s absolutely fantastic!
No, Inter have not been excellent week-in and week-out yet, but today was proof of their progress under Spalletti.
Next weekend, Inter face league-leaders Napoli away. Maurizio Sarri’s team is better than Inter, and will be strong favorites on Saturday. However, if the Nerazzurri shock the football world and somehow defeat Napoli, they’ll be alone atop the Serie A table for the first time since January 6, 2016.
While unlikely, the mere fact that this is possible shows you how much progress Inter have made… but we’re getting a little ahead of ourselves there. For now, let’s enjoy the derby win. Forza!