After a month of October to forget so far for Inter Milan, the Nerazzurri secured their first win since the final day of September with a 2-0 victory away to Rolando Maran’s Genoa. With over 60% of possession but no goals to show for it until midway into the second half, it was not the most high flying of matches, but it secured an important three points.
Antonio Conte made four changes from the lineup that drew 2-2 at home with Borussia Monchengladbach in the Champions League on Sunday, replacing Aleksandar Kolarov, Stefan de Vrij, Nicolo Barella, and Alexis Sanchez with Alessandro Bastoni, Andrea Ranocchia, Marcelo Brozovic, and Lautaro Martinez, respectively.
Christian Eriksen started for the second match in a row, looking to stake a claim on the trequartista position in Antontio Conte’s 3-4-1-2, while Achraf Hakimi returned to the squad after two negative COVID-19 tests revealed that the positive test that kept the Moroccan out of the team against Monchengladbach was a false positive.
GENOA (3-5-2): Perin; Bani, Zapata, Goldaniga; Ghiglione, Behrami, Badelj, Rovella, Czyborra; Pandev, Pjaca
Bench: Marchetti, Paleari, Biraschi, Zajc, Radovanovic, Destro, Melegoni, Masiello, Shomurodov, Parigini, Pellegrini, Dumbravanu
INTER (3-4-1-2): Handanovic; D’Ambrosio, Ranocchia, Bastoni; Darmian, Vidal, Brozovic, Perisic; Erisken; Lukaku, Lautaro
Bench: Padelli, Stankovic, Hakimi, de Vrij, Kolarov, Barella, Moretti, Nainggolan, Vezzoni, Carboni, Satriano, Pinamonti
The away side enjoyed the lion’s share of possession in the first half, but failed to put any of their five shots on target. The team looked rather static at times, stifled by the low block of Genoa, a familiar issue for Inter in previous seasons. Inter came closest to a goal through Arturo Vidal on 26 minutes, as the Chilean brought down an Ivan Perisic cross in the box, but found his close range shot blocked by Mattia Bani.
Genoa set out from the beginning of the match to stifle their opposition, hoping for the odd counter attack to create a chance in behind Inter’s high defensive line. These chances, however, came few and far in between. This made for a very slow paced half where neither team threatened the other too much. Inter did a good job of controlling possession and mitigating the risk of a counter attack, but could not offer a final ball for a goal.
The second half began much like the first. Genoa were more than happy to sit behind the ball and challenge Inter to break them down. Inter continued their attempts to ask questions of the Genoa defense, but still found difficulty in the final third.
The breakthrough came for Inter shortly after the substitutions of Achraf Hakimi and Nicolo Barella at the expense of Perisic and Eriksen. In the 64th minute Barella and Romelu Lukaku found each other on the edge of the box, playing a neat interchange that released Lukaku in on goal. The Belgian made no mistake, slotting the ball past Mattia Perin and releasing much of the pressure of Genoa’s low block.
Romelu Lukaku now has seven goals in his last five games for Inter and Belgium pic.twitter.com/SKYxnp6bj9— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) October 24, 2020
The goal again showed how important Lukaku is to this Inter team, taking his goalscoring tally to seven goals in six matches in all competitions for the club this season.
After the first goal, Inter remained on the attack, looking to put the match out of reach. The final blow came in the 79th minute, as a Marcelo Brozovic corner was flicked on in the box by Andrea Ranocchia and headed in at the far post by Danilo D’Ambrosio, his second goal of the season.
After the goal, Radja Nianggolan and Aleksandar Kolarov made their way onto the pitch for Matteo Darmian and Vidal to help Inter finish out what became their first clean sheet of the season. It may not have been Champagne football, but it was what Antonio Conte and his team needed, a steady performance good for three points and a long awaited clean sheet ahead of a Champions League trip to Ukraine to face Shakhtar Donetsk.
Handanovic - 6: The captain had no saves to make in this match, as Genoa did not manage a single shot on goal. The only display from the Slovenian was with his feet, which were steady in distribution. Other than that, all he had to do was stand on the pitch and look nice.
D’Ambrosio - 7: The defense held a steady line and swept up when needed. D’Ambrosio is very comfortable on the right side of a back three, especially against lesser sides. He showed this again with a solid performance capped off with a signature back post goal.
Ranocchia - 7: After almost joining Genoa in the summer, Ranocchia showed he still has something to give in a backup role. The back three offers the veteran protection and allows him to sweep up as the middle center back. The assist is was a cherry on top of a very good performance.
Bastoni - 6: In his first start after recovering from COVID-19, Bastoni looked a little slow to return to his top form. However, he still played well in a match that didn’t require too much defensively. He did have a copule of rushes of blood to the head in some rash challenges, notably against against Goran Pandev.
Darmian - 6.5: Another impressive match for the Italian in his early days at Inter. Darmian showed his versatility, playing on the right then moving to the left when Hakimi came on. He moved the ball well and handled his defensive duties. He may find himself becoming the regular left wing back with Hakimi on the right in the coming weeks.
Vidal - 6.5: The Chilean has settled into the Inter team rather well, bar the penalty blunder midweek. He covers the entire midfield constantly, breaking up opposition play and recycling possession for his side when in attack. However, he may need a rest soon to avoid burnout.
Brozovic - 6: The Croatian put in a lackluster performance overall. He has yet to find his form as part of a double pivot behind the trequartista in Conte’s 3-4-1-2. His frustration was also evident in his body language, as it often is.
Perisic - 6: The Perisic at left wing back experiment continues. An average performance, very tidy but not any kind of stand out performance. He will likely find himself as a backup option on the left as the season continues.
Eriksen - 6.5: Finally, some signs of life from the Dane. He played some nice long passes, completed a couple of dribbles, and even pressed well at times. He was substituted for Barella, who assisted the opening goal. This may still leave question marks over his status in the team, though Conte defended him in the post match press conference.
Lukaku - 8 (Man of the Match): Inter’s number is 9 currently on another level, possibly playing some of the best football of his career. His hold up play continues to strengthen while he is finding the back of the net at a blistering pace for club and country. If he continues in this form for the majority of the season, Serie A better be on high alert.
Lautaro - 5.5: Wasteful in possession and dispossessed multiple times, Lautaro is not on his best form. He knows he’s better than his current form, and he made his frustration known as he battered his bench seat before sitting down after being substituted for Andera Pinamonti.
Barella - 7: After making his way onto the pitch in the place of Eriksen, Barella’s energy made the difference in the midfield for Inter. His running and passing set up Lukaku’s goal and changed the dimension of the midfield.
Hakimi - 6: A very quiet shift for Hakimi after missing training because of his false positive COVID-19 test. His speed did worry Genoa, but not much else. However, it was important for him to get some minutes before the match against Shakhtar.
Pinamonti - 6: His first appearance for Inter since 2017 was also quiet, but his movement and strength looked to be positives. He could find a few goals this season as a backup.
Kolarov - N/A
Conte - 6: The manager’s approach continues as it has for every match this season. With better personnel coming available after recovering from COVID-19 and with the weak opposition that Conte’s teams feast on, it was an expected and welcome victory.
After showing some positives, the team will look to carry them into Tuesday’s Champions League match away against Shakhtar Donetsk.