Inter’s 2017-18 season got off to the perfect start as the Nerazzurri swept aside Fiorentina to record a 3-0 victory at San Siro.
Two goals from captain Mauro Icardi in the opening quarter of an hour put Luciano Spalletti’s side immediately on course for a splendid evening, and after a difficult spell in which Fiorentina threatened to reopen the match Ivan Perisic sealed the three points with ten minutes remaining.
Our match report from Sunday’s can be found here, while below you can take a look at our player ratings. As a matter of principle I decided that nobody deserved less than 6.5 this evening. Disagree with these grades to your heart’s content in the comments section at the bottom!
Samir Handanovic - 7
Inter did not have everything their own way for 90 minutes, but whenever they did find themselves under attack Samir responded present and correct. Handa produced two crucial saves to deny Fiorentina two goals that could have drastically altered the course of this match; one in the first half on Giovanni Simeone, and one in the second half on Khouma Babacar.
Big teams also need big goalkeepers. He may not be perfect, but Inter have one of those.
Danilo D’Ambrosio - 6.5
A diligent performance in both attack and defence, which is par for the course with Danilo. He and Candreva have a good understanding on the right wing from last season, and they demonstrated it again here; albeit without spectacular results. I’m not 100% certain personally that Joao Cancelo’s arrival will automatically relegate him to the substitute’s bench.
Milan Skriniar - 7.5
The surprise of pre-season effortlessly became the surprise of the opening weekend. Milan Skriniar has exceeded even the loftiest of expectations in his first two months as an Inter player, and Sunday night’s display gave us yet more confirmation of what a promising signing we have made. Strong, good on the ball, concentrated but most of all authoritative; he showed a remarkable force of personality for a 22 year-old making his full debut at San Siro. Spalletti made a point of underlining just how positive his performance was during his post-match interviews; have we finally found a dependable defensive partner for Miranda?
Miranda - 7
A very good performance from a man Inter will be heavily reliant upon this season. Tim wrote at length last week about Miranda’s importance to this team and thankfully the Brazilian started off on the right foot - neither Simeone nor Babacar got any change out of him. He and Skriniar show a great deal of potential as a central defensive partnership; let’s hope it’s fulfilled.
Yuto Nagatomo - 6.5
Given what Spalletti had said about both Dalbert and Nagatomo during the past fortnight it wasn’t an enormous surprise to see the latter making the starting XI. And to his credit, Yuto didn’t do too badly (it certainly wasn’t one of his worst performances). The long pass that Icardi brought down before winning the early penalty was his, and after that early flourish he ran himself into the ground for his teammates. Gil Dias gave him some trouble at times and he did play one dodgy pass inside his own half, but overall this was a good performance.
Matias Vecino - 6.5
A very positive, if understated full debut. His understanding with Borja Valero from Fiorentina is evident and will be of great use to us in midfield; for sure that will have helped him get used to his new surroundings. If he were slightly more determined in his forward runs he really would be a complete midfielder. There’s time for that yet.
Borja Valero - 7
It’s not particularly difficult to work out why Spalletti wanted to sign Borja Valero both last summer and this summer. He is everything Inter haven’t had since Esteban Cambiasso left, and I don’t just mean folically challenged. The authority he exudes in the centre of the pitch is breathtaking; when someone in the team needs to take responsibility, he takes it without a second thought. Even when he’s not on the ball he manages to have an impact. We won’t be seeing him on the bench a lot this season.
Adani: "Banega is a player who gives you a lot when the team is functioning well. Borja Valero is a player who makes the team function well"— SerpentsofMadonnina (@SerpentsOfInter) August 20, 2017
Antonio Candreva - 6.5
Most people were hoping he would be sold this summer but it’s important to keep things in perspective: Antonio Candreva is not a bad footballer. Anzi. Perhaps he’s not the best a top European club could wish for on the right wing but he deserves the utmost respect, and tonight he put in a good performance. He ran for almost 90 minutes straight and made himself very useful by consistently moving into the centre of the pitch, to give Inter’s midfielders more passing options between the lines.
Marcelo Brozovic - 6.5
I defy a single Interista to tell me that they expected to see Marcelo Brozovic’s name on the teamsheet for this match, but all things said and done he played well. Brozovic is frequently criticised for wasting energy by running around like a headless chicken, but on this occasion he made sure his running was useful to the team. I’m still not comfortable with the idea of him starting lots of matches this season, but credit where it’s due.
Ivan Perisic - 7.5
And if Inter’s greatest signing of the summer was a player that they already had?
On 28 May, not one Interista would have put a single penny on Ivan Perisic still being with us at the start of the new season. After putting in a stellar performance against Udinese he took his son Leo on a lap of honour around San Siro and saluted all four corners of the crowd, giving the distinct impression of somebody who was thinking ‘thank you and goodbye’. We all thought that was the last time we’d see him in nerazzurro.
But we were all wrong. And how nice it can be to be wrong sometimes. When his head is engaged he has few equals and on this occasion his head was very much engaged; a goal and an assist was the least he deserved for this performance.
He does infuriate you at times - what was that square ball to Icardi in front of goal on the half-hour? - but he would have been nigh-on impossible for us to replace this summer. And he is perfect for Spalletti and the football his teams practise. Top top top.
Mauro Icardi - 8
He missed more than a month of pre-season and then on the first weekend of the season he scores two goals inside 15 minutes.
That’s Mauro Icardi for you.
There’s little left for us to say that we haven’t already said about this man. He is simply lethal in that penalty box (even if he did miss a couple of chances later on), but we’ve been aware of that for over four years. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen him score the goal that put us 2-0 up, but I will never ever tire of seeing it. That is his goal, and nobody else’s.
Inter’s problems are elsewhere.
Joao Mario - 7
Most of us were expecting to see him in the starting XI, but Spalletti surprised us all and opted for Brozovic instead, with pretty solid results. Not least because of the impact the Portuguese midfielder had off the bench in the final half hour.
Joao made several substitute appearances towards the back end of last season and struggled to make an impact - he never came on with the right attitude, really. This match was a completely different story though, as he seemed determined from the moment he entered the fray to the final whistle. He capped his display with a fine assist for Perisic’s goal; will this prove enough to earn him a start away to Roma next weekend?
If he could just learn how to shoot, for goodness’ sake...
Roberto Gagliardini - 6.5
Like with Joao Mario I was also expecting Gagliardini to start, but Spalletti preferred Vecino over the Italian and you can’t argue with his decision. Replaced Brozovic in our most difficult period of the match and gave a solid contribution to the team, winning the ball back and putting himself about in midfield. The less said about his chance to make it 3-0 the better.
Eder - N/A
Came on with just five minutes to spare to give Icardi a rest; difficult to assign a grade.
Luciano Spalletti - 7
A superb start for our new Mister. The team approached the game perfectly and immediately took control with two early goals, before creating a whole host of other chances that should have made the points safe much sooner than they were. The team already bares most of the hallmarks of a Luciano Spalletti side and their ideas will only become clearer over time; finally our rabble of players resembles a team. Our performance in the second half could certainly have been better, and he’ll know that better than any of us, but for a first game of the season we couldn’t have asked for much more. Bravo.
Man of the Match: Mauro Icardi
We took a poll on Twitter just to be sure who you thought was Man of the Match, but there was only ever going to be one winner tonight.
Mauro Icardi was the runaway winner, with Ivan Perisic a distant second. Something tells me that this won’t be the last time we’ll vote that way over the course of this season.