Inter returned from the international break with the necessity to beat Sampdoria in order to keep their slim UEFA Champions League qualification hopes alive. After the draw with Torino a fortnight ago Stefano Pioli's men had practically no room for error left if they were to keep pressure on third-placed Napoli, and so there was only one acceptable result they could pick up against an in-form Sampdoria team: the victory. For this match Marcelo Brozovic returned to central midfield after a long spell out of the team, dropping Geoffrey Kondogbia to the substitutes' bench, but the rest of the XI was unchanged from Inter's last Serie A outing.
The game started positively for the Nerazzurri as they kept Sampdoria pinned in their own half and created several decent chances to score. Ivan Perisic headed wide from a corner inside five minutes before Antonio Candreva spurned a huge opportunity to make it 1-0, but the Italian was unable to find the net from 8 yards and Marco Giampaolo's men breathed a sigh of relief. In particular they were struggling to contain Inter on the right-hand side of their defence in the early stages, which is where they were forced to make a change when Jacopo Sala picked up an injury.
Eager to make an impact on his return to first-team action it was Brozovic who tried his luck next, but the shot he produced from outside the box went very high indeed and Emiliano Viviano had nothing to worry about. And indeed, despite having some trouble early on it was Sampdoria who would have the best chance of the opening half-hour, but Fabio Quagliarella was unlucky to see his own long-range effort come out off the post. Mauro Icardi and Patrik Schick - a player being followed by Inter ahead of this summer's transfer window - then both had chances of their own, with the Czech forward heading narrowly over the top of Samir Handanovic's goal, but the opener was to come from a more unlikely source.
10 minutes before the break it was Danilo D'Ambrosio, reportedly on the verge of renewing his contract until 2021, who gave Inter the lead. Candreva whipped the ball in from the right wing and the Italian full-back crowned a very successful fortnight on a personal level by diverting it past Viviano, scoring his second goal of the season. After that, the chances kept coming - at both ends - but it remained 1-0 until half-time. Samp could very easily have gone in level though when Bruno Fernandes struck the post at the beginning of stoppage time, with Schick unable to put in the rebound. It was a sign of what was to come.
The second half began with the ominous news that Roberto Gagliardini was to be taken off after receiving a knock in the first 45, with Kondogbia coming on to partner Brozovic. And indeed it proved to be just as bad a piece of news as Interisti feared at the time, as absolutely everything went disastrously wrong from then on (and we hadn't been that impressive before half-time either).
Shortly after Kondogbia tried to score from long range, Sampdoria equalized. Former Inter player Matias Silvestre won a header from a corner and Schick was left unmarked to tap in from close range, with Handanovic helpless to prevent parity being restored. It was a sloppy goal to concede and the team never truly recovered from conceding it, devoting the ensuing 40 minutes to perfecting their 'Inept Headless Chickens' act as the away side grew in confidence.
Banega was next to go close on the hour mark with a dangerous cross that Viviano collected, before Perisic's header was kept out by the Samp keeper. Quagliarella then came close himself to completing the visitors' turnaround, but this time Handanovic managed to get a foot to the shot and kept it out. Pioli replaced Banega with Eder as time ticked away and he nearly got an instant response from the Italy international, but again Viviano was in the way as the home team tried to surprise Samp from a well-worked corner. By far the best chance we had to retake the lead fell to Icardi though, who failed to punish his old club when he somehow missed the target from a Candreva cross. It wasn't what we've come to expect of Maurito, but it summed up the way the evening was going very succinctly.
Joao Mario came on for Perisic with just over 10 minutes left as Inter became increasingly desperate, but before long the decisive incident arrived and it did not go our way. Ricky Alvarez, another ex-Interista who'd been brought on by this stage, took a free-kick from 25 yards out and Brozovic promptly pushed the self-destruct button, raising his arm in the wall and conceding the most apocalyptically stupid penalty since Felipe Melo decided to behead Sergej Milinkovic-Savic during Inter-Lazio of December 2015. Referee Domenico Celi had no choice but to point to the spot and Quagliarella got the goal his performance deserved, beating Handanovic with a powerful effort from 12 yards.
Nothing happened from then on and the final whistle came after three uneventful minutes of added time, meaning it ended Inter 1-2 Sampdoria on Monday evening at San Siro. Inter were poor overall in the first half and could easily have not been in front at the break, but it was nothing compared to the cataclysms they produced after the break and ultimately we can't complain about the result. The chances were there for us to win but the performance was very reminiscent of the Inter we saw at the beginning of the year, wasteful up front and hideously vulnerable in the middle. Pioli made some questionable decisions with his starting XI and will be hammered in particular for picking Brozovic, who was an embarrassment and a joke and deserves to be banished to the reserves until 2054 for the disasters he combined tonight. It seems this team cannot function without Gagliardini - who unfortunately might not have the lightest of injuries if early diagnoses are anything to go by - and that is a very big concern for how good we know he is.
The Champions League is now a mirage and we have a fight on our hands to make the Europa League too, because our calendar gets no easier between now and May. In summary, tonight was an absolute disaster and everyone should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves for the humiliating manner in which they've destroyed our season. I thought we'd progressed beyond suicidal matches like this since Pioli arrived, but apparently we haven't. Udinese two years ago, Torino last year, Cagliari in October, and now Samp tonight: four home games that we've thrown away in disgraceful circumstances after taking the lead. Pazza Inter is back and perhaps it's here to stay, which is a crying shame.
I'm very, very annoyed, in case you hadn't noticed. Almost as annoyed as Gabriel Barbosa, who reportedly kicked a water bottle in frustration when he realized he would not be coming on as a substitute. That'll be a fun story to hear about over the next few days.
This is just incoherent rambling now. A bit like Inter's performance, devoid of any logic and any ultimate purpose. AAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH.
Does anyone else miss the international break all of a sudden?