The result on Friday night between Napoli and Juventus meant that Inter had a chance to move top of the table. Even though this might be more symbolic in value at this stage, it does validate the outstanding job done by Spalletti thus far. Standing in the way of that was mid-table was Chievo and a handful of injuries and suspensions. In the buildup to this match, the biggest concern for most Inter fans related to the situation at center-back as Joao Miranda would be out suspended. Would Andrea Ranocchia partner Milan Skriniar in defense and if so, would there be a big drop in quality? Added to that was the injury to Matias Vecino, and suspension to Roberto Gagliardini.
Spalletti's 4-2-3-1 starting lineup gave Ranocchia his first start of the season, partnering Skriniar, and with Davide Santon and Danilo D'Ambrosio as the fullbacks. In midfield, Borja Valero would drop back and be partnered by Marcelo Brozovic as the pair of deep-lying midfielders. Joao Mario was also part of the starting lineup, partnering Perisic, Candreva, and Icardi in attack.
Inter began this game extremely positively and the returning Ranocchia had a chance to score against his favorite team but put his header wide. If there was any fear about Inter's rejigged backline it was being allayed by possession football. With Inter having nearly 70% of the ball, Chievo had very few opportunities to test the backline. However, the flying donkeys did create one excellent chance that Riccardo Meggiorini almost scored with. The key to this game remaining a contest would be Chievo's ability to keep the first half as tight as possible and try to hit Inter on the counter. One got a feeling that a goal for Inter would open the floodgates.
Inter's new-look midfield was also coping well with the changes and that is a testament to the pre-game preparation of the players under Spalletti. This was an area that was perhaps lacking in previous seasons and the hard work put in on the training ground is visible for all to see on matchdays. Borja Valero was wonderful in setting up Inter's attacks with vision and accurate passing. All the early pressure almost gave way to a goal in the 18th minute but Ranocchia once again couldn't direct his header on target.
Chievo's midfielders were unable to put together any sort of attack and at the back they were mostly just hanging on by the skin of their teeth. It certainly looked like a question of when rather than if as far Inter's first goal. The 50,000 plus at the San Siro finally did not have to wait much longer for a goal – In the 23rd minute, Davide Santon struck a stinging shot from the left that Chievo's Stefano Sorrentino could only parry into the danger zone and Ivan Perisic was at hand to volley home a fierce hit that the Chievo keeper could do nothing about.
The goal seemed to add even more impetus to an already impressive offensive display. They were aided by some sloppy giveaways by Chievo's defense but one could argue that some of these came as a result of incessant pressure from Inter. Joao Mario missed a gilt-edged chance a few minutes after being put through on goal by Mauro Icardi, as his low shot was saved by Sorrentino's feet.
1-0 is never a comfortable scoreline and Chievo were popping up with questions every now and then, with Meggiorini in particular leading the charge. Could Inter make all of their superior possession and chances count for another goal before half-time or would they be punished for being wasteful in front of goal?
The answer came in the 38th minute as Brozovic, who was enjoying life in Inter's midfield, picked out a wonderful through-ball for Icardi who found himself one-on-one with Sorrentino and, unlike Mario, found the back of the goal. And just like that with goal number 16 of the season, the captain was in the top 10 of Inter's all-time goal scoring list. The goal had given Inter breathing room and, based on the first half evidence, looked certain to be heading to the top of the table.
If the first half Inter display was impressive, the second half was even more utterly dominant as the second goal looked to have taken the wind out of Chievo's sails. Brozovic and Candreva, who had some wayward efforts on goal in the first half, had re-calibrated their shooting radar and had a number of threatening efforts on goal starting with Candreva in the 51st. By this point, Inter were able to attack the Chievo goal pretty much at will and with the midfield now oozing with confidence, Perisic scored his second with a crisp low shot across Sorrentino. A couple of minutes later came the goal of the match - Milan Skriniar confidently strode out of defense to start the next Inter attack, but instead of holding his run, he continued all the way and was rewarded with an inch perfect cross from Candreva. Skriniar showed his eye for goal with a wonderful diving header and the San Siro was rocking with Inter now 4-0 up.
With Chievo well and truly beaten, the rest of the second half was little more than a training exercise for Inter with the likes of Candreva and Brozovic desperate to get onto the score sheet. With an eye towards next weekend's Derby D'Italia, Spalletti gave a break to Icardi, who was replaced by Eder.
This team's commitment to the cause is symbolized by the manager - in the closing minutes of the game, Inter had a chance to counter Chievo who found themselves short of men at the back. The ball was put out of play by a retreating Chievo to buy them some time. However, much to Spalletti's angst, the ball did not get returned as quickly as he would have liked and he appeared to give the poor ball boy an ear-full. Even with the game comfortably won at 4-0, he was not satisfied and this hunger and desire to get the most from each game can only bode well for the future.
Perisic provided the icing on the cake in injury time by scoring his hat-trick, taking a well-placed shot past the hapless Sorrentino. The final 5-0 score was completely deserving and perfectly represented Inter's most complete offensive performance of the season thus far. Goals from Perisic showed there is more to the attack than just Icardi and the changes in midfield and defense did not adversely affect the performance. A wonderful way to go top of the table and Inter (Inter Milan) will no doubt head to the J Stadium full of confidence.
As always, Forza Inter!