Inter's midweek game against Sampdoria had all the makings of a perfect banana skin. Coming on the heels of an inspiring performance against a table-topping Napoli, Inter teams of recent years would have most certainly squandered all of that good work with an insipid, disinterested display and quickly crept back into mediocrity.
However, Spalletti's Inter is showing more and more signs that it is made of sterner stuff. Inter went into the game knowing a win would take them to the top of Serie A at least for 24 hours. Spalletti named an unchanged lineup from the game against Napoli.
Inter began the game brightly doing most of the early running and bossing possession. Attempts from Candreva and D'Ambrosio gave enough warnings to the Samp defense but Inter had little to show for all their dominance. However, as fate would have it, Inter's defensive sensation and former Samp protégé Milan Skriniar opened the scoring in the 18th minute with a header from a Candreva corner and a flick on by Vecino. The Samp keeper Puggioni would feel he might have done better on this one, but as it stood, it was just reward for Inter's enterprising display.
From there on, Inter was unlucky to not double their lead when a Perisic effort on goal found the Samp keeper woefully out of position and it was only the upright that kept the score at 1-0. Inter's attack seemed to be firing on all cylinders in the first half as a long-distance shot from Nagatomo and a header from Icardi kept the Samp keeper working overtime to keep his side in the game.
Eventually the incessant Inter pressure told on the Samp defense. Inter doubled their lead with a now customary goal from Mauro Icardi against his former club. A poor clearance by Matias Silvestre (remember him Inter fans?) gave Icardi a chance to display his brilliant technique as he volleyed home his tenth goal of the season. This was not an easy finish and just goes to show the rich vein of form the Inter captain is in.
Samp's best defender of the first half, the goal frame, made another brilliant save from a powerful Icardi header five minutes before half time, and one had to wonder if Inter would be made to pay for not making all their opportunities count. Inter had utterly dominated the first half with close to 65% possession and umpteen shots on goal. The only negative was perhaps the 2-0 scoreline as Inter should have been up by more.
Five minutes into the second half and a crisp move with a through ball from Vecino to Perisic, with the latter crossing into the box led to Icardi's second goal of the game and Inter was now cruising 3-0 up. Icardi almost returned the favor to Perisic ten minutes later as he put the Croatian through on goal. However, Inter's love affair with the woodwork continued as Perisic's shot once again crashed into the crossbar. For those keeping count, by this time Inter had already hit the frame thrice in this match! Regardless, the smart money would have been on Icardi scoring a hat-trick but this is Pazza Inter we are talking about after all.
Less than a couple of minutes after the Perisic effort, Samp made Inter pay for their missed opportunity. A smart cross by Fabio Quagliarella towards the far post allowed Dawid Kownacki to stroll in completely unattended and stroke an impressive volley past Handanovic's near post. The time and space available to Kownacki brought back some rather scary memories of our defending from previous seasons.
In the meantime, Quagliarella who has tormented Inter in the past was not done just yet. A wonderful through-ball by Caprari found Quagliarella behind the Inter defense in the 67th minute who somehow managed to miss the target. Inter's second half performance was undoing all of the good work from the brilliant first. By playing deeper and deeper, Inter was inviting Samp onto them, who duly obliged by dominating possession in the second half.
If the nerves had not already set in for the Nerazzurri faithful, they well and truly would a few minutes later. Dennis Praet found himself in yards of space on Samp's right flank and put in a precise pass into the box which was met by Samp's man of the moment Quagliarella. Once again, a Samp attacker was once completely unmarked in the penalty area. A simple header made it 3-2 and what should have been a walk in the park final 30 minutes was proving to be anything but. Spalletti made substitutions beyond the 80th minute mark that ate up some time as Inter endured a few more nervous moments. The defense somehow managed to hold on to their now slender one goal lead in the final minutes to bring home the precious three points.
One can't help but think, a better second half performance and clean sheet could have sent a real message to the rest of the Serie A but perhaps this tempers some of the unnecessary Scudetto talk. We noted a few weeks ago that Inter was embarking on a difficult three game stretch and coming away with seven points out of a possible nine is no doubt brilliant. The result means that Inter (Inter Milan) are enjoying their most successful start to a Serie A season.