After impressive wins over Fiorentina and Roma in the opening two weeks of the season, Inter maintained their perfect start to the 2017-18 Serie A season with a 2-0 victory over SPAL at San Siro. Luciano Spalletti’s side made hard work of beating the newly-promoted outfit, in a match that seemed to be affected by fatigue hanging over from last week’s international break, but ultimately they secured the three points thanks to a penalty from Mauro Icardi and a wonder-goal from Ivan Perisic, fresh from signing a contract extension with the Nerazzurri on Friday.
Below are our player ratings for Sunday’s win at the Meazza. Matt’s match report, meanwhile, can be found here.
Samir Handanovic - 6
Despite Inter’s underwhelming second-half performance, in which the team’s levels of intensity and concentration appeared to drop, Samir didn’t have any difficult saves to make this afternoon. Ultimately Leonardo Semplici’s men were restricted to ambitious shots from distance and efforts that ended narrowly off target; all the better for us.
Danilo D’Ambrosio - 6.5
Another solid if unspectacular performance from Danilo ‘you know what you get from him’ D’Ambrosio, which was adorned late on with an assist for Perisic’s spectacular goal. He was booked during the first half and it seemed to inhibit him for a while, but he still offered something on the right wing whenever Candreva tucked inside. SPAL’s best attacking moves came from the other side of the pitch.
Milan Skriniar - 7
If one match is an incident and two matches are a coincidence, three matches must be a pattern. There’s just no stopping Milan Skriniar at the moment, who impressed yet again at the heart of our defence and submitted a strong candidature to be today’s Man of the Match. When SPAL’s pressing was at its most intense at the start of the second half the Slovakian conjured up two decisive clearances inside his own box, one of which required extreme courage and left him flat on the floor for a couple of minutes. A terrific display from a player that’s fast becoming irreplaceable for us.
And that’s without taking this rocket into account...
Just imagine if that had gone in. San Siro would no longer have a roof.
Miranda - 6.5
He doesn’t catch the eye quite like Skriniar does at the moment - perhaps because we’ve already been watching him for two years - but Miranda has been just as effective at the back in our first three games of the season. The disastrous form in which he concluded last season appears, for the moment, to be a thing of the past; Marco Borriello and Alberto Paloschi received little change out of the Brazilian on Sunday afternoon. Have we finally found a central defensive partnership we can rely on for real?
Dalbert - 5.5
Nobody was expecting miracles on his full debut in Serie A, and indeed we didn’t get any from Dalbert. The Brazilian’s first match in black and blue colours was not one that will live long in the memory, as he seemed slightly timid when going forward and uncertain when forced to defend. Manuel Lazzari caused him quite a few problems on Inter’s left-hand side and he didn’t seem to be on exactly the same wavelength as the rest of his back four; Spalletti has already said twice that Dalbert will need time to adapt to the particular demands of Italian football, and this match ostensibly proved him right. With time he will develop a very fruitful working relationship with Perisic, although we only saw occasional evidence of that today.
But this is by no means a definitive verdict. Dalbert has fantastic offensive qualities and will become a fine left-back for us with time.
Borja Valero - 6.5
By now it’s clear that Spalletti will pick him for every single match in which he is not suspended or injured, and he’s doing little to suggest that that’s a bad policy. Nothing special from Borja today, whose afternoon was rendered difficult by SPAL’s excellent defensive organisation, but he stayed neat and tidy, albeit with the occasional mistake when Inter were out of possession.
Roberto Gagliardini - 6.5
Luciano Spalletti’s response to Gagliardini’s performance against Roma two weeks ago was perfect. The Italian was a shadow of the player that we had come to love during the second half of last season, and was substituted at half-time before Inter’s rousing comeback ensued.
Yet Spalletti went in the opposite direction to most mere mortals and gave Roberto a much-needed confidence boost, telling him almost the minute the game had finished that he would again be named in the starting XI against SPAL. And judging on Gagliardini’s performance today, his strategy was the right one.
It goes without saying that playing away to Roma is one thing while playing at home to SPAL is another. But Gaglia looked more like his old self in this game, equipped with a very positive attitude and the desire to take on the world (which never, however, led him to overdo things). He was at the heart of the team’s (not exactly mind-blowing) play today and used his physicality to great effect in midfield, as well as going close to scoring on two occasions in the first half. Bentornato, Roby.
Antonio Candreva - 6
You can never fault him for effort and work-rate, but today wasn’t simple for Tonino. Filippo Costa and Luca Mora did well to starve him of space in wide areas for the majority of the afternoon, so his best contributions came when he moved inside and linked up with team-mates between the lines. His quick feet to set up Perisic’s chance midway through the second half was very impressive, and he could have scored a wonder-goal of his own had Alfred Gomis not denied him.
Joao Mario - 6
A great player, but only in fits and starts. Spalletti did the right thing in promoting him to the starting XI after excellent performances off the bench against Fiorentina and Roma, but this was perversely the Portuguese midfielders’ least convincing performance of the three. He still doesn’t seem like the perfect man to fill that no. 10 role, often losing his way when crowded out around the box and faring better with space to breathe in. Inconsistent, although he was involved in the lovely move that earned Inter their first-half penalty.
Ivan Perisic - 7
Nobody can score a goal like that and receive less than 7/10.
If anybody were still in doubt as to why Inter wanted as much as €50m from Manchester United this summer, they probably aren’t after this match. Perisic’s first 87 minutes were marked more by fundamental defensive work than scintillating attacking play, but that too is part of the repertoire that makes him such an important player for this team. One defensive recovery in particular sticks in my mind from the first half, when he denied SPAL the opportunity to run straight at an exposed defence on the break.
And then came the goal. Which rather speaks for itself.
Thanks for sticking around, Ivan.
Mauro Icardi - 6.5
Inter have scored 8 goals in their opening three games of the season and 5 of them are Mauro Icardi’s. That’s what he is to this team: a guarantor of goals. SPAL’s back three afforded him precious little space in their penalty area this afternoon and once again his teammates failed to accompany him into the box, but when the penalty was (finally) awarded he responded present and correct: 1-0. After that, not much. He put a shift in up front and tried to add to his tally, but without success.
Marcelo Brozovic - 5.5
The attitude he came on with was the exact opposite of the attitude Joao Mario came on with during the first two games of the season. And the performance it produced was the exact opposite. He’s unlikely to be useful for us this year.
Matias Vecino - N/A
Came on too late to be given a grade.
Eder - N/A
Came on too late to be given a grade.
Luciano Spalletti - 6.5
This was never likely to be as straightforward a match as it might have seemed on paper, what with SPAL’s excellent start to the season and the inevitable fatigue that our players felt returning from the first international break of the season. But even without convincing for large periods, Inter look like a team full of players that care for each other and know what they’re doing - and that’s already an improvement on last season. For the first time since 2010 we have a truly top coach, and it makes me moderately optimistic for the following eight months. Hopefully we’ll play better than this next week though.
Man of the Match: Milan Skriniar
Our Twitter poll will be open until tomorrow afternoon, so let’s not exclude extraordinary comebacks, but we already appear to have a very clear winner: Milan Skriniar has taken a whopping 71% of your votes (at least, as I’m writing this he has), with Perisic a very distant second. He is therefore today’s undisputed Man of the Match.
Who’d have thought that one day we’d all fall in love with a man called Milan. But we have alright.