While Inter was missing only Marcelo Brozovic and Aleksandar Kolarov due to COVID-19 cases, Torino had a whole host of absences. Four players and head coach Marco Giampaolo were out thanks to positive Coronavirus tests and Andrea Belotti picked up a knee injury during pre-match warm up.
The majority of possession was in Inter’s favor in the opening stages. Torino, though, never broke and in fact barely had to even bend to deal with the attacking threat (or lack thereof) that Inter posed. As the half wore on La Granata began tallying up chances on the counter, including a volley from close range into the side netting and a low shot from the corner of the six that forced Samir Handanovic into a kick save. Both opportunities originated from the boot of Simone Zaza, but the 29-year-old wouldn’t be denied in the second minute of added time.
From just outside the box, Soualiho Meïté sent a nifty back heel goal-wards to Zaza, leaving Inter’s defense in shambles. Zaza, under little pressure, was able to pick out the bottom corner from the center of the box with mere seconds left in the half.
Inter, on the other hand, never tested Salvatore Sirigu’s goal. The Nerazzurri never showed the urgency that was surely going to be needed to break down a solidified Torino side. None of Inter’s five shots found the target, but even more concerning was how little the likes of Lukaku and Sanchez found themselves with the ball and near the goal. Inter notched just eleven touches in Torino’s box all half.
The interval didn’t change much on the pitch, with Inter once more looking out of ideas against a Torino side that even boasted a little confidence after the goal. Things took a turn for the worse (or so we thought) in the 58th minute. Ashley Young was caught unawares on a looping cross into the box and his attempted clearance ended up finding the chest of Wilifried Singo rather than the ball. Referee Federico La Penna needed to visit the VAR monitor first, but the reckless nature of Young’s high boot made a Torino penalty inevitable. Cristian Ansaldi blasted the spot kick past Handanovic who despite guessing the right way and even getting a fingertip to the ball, had no chance.
Torino’s second of the afternoon finally kick-started Conte’s men into showing the urgency that had been lacking all game. Inter immediately found a lifeline through Alexis Sanchez’ first of the season in the 64th minute. A Lukaku effort bounced off the crossbar and throughout the box before being powered into the net by the Chilean from close range.
The Nerazzurri were ruthless in search of an equalizer and it took just three more minutes for the ball to find its way into the back of Sirigu’s net off the boot of Romelu Lukaku in the 67th minute. Sanchez picked up a loose ball in the box and dribbled to endline before squaring it across the goalmouth where Lukaku tapped home.
Andrea Ranocchia sent a open head drifting narrowly wide of the post off a free kick in the 69th minute, almost completing the comeback then and there. It was not be just yet, though, and the frantic period of play which saw three goals in five minutes came to and end. Torino looked shell-shook but Inter’s aggression was slowed as the visitors slowly regained their wits.
The scoreline remained the same past the 80th minute mark, and one began to wonder where the ferocity Inter had showed to bring itself level had gone. But as they say, what VAR taketh, VAR giveth. Federico La Penna was again ushered to the sideline screen, but this time for a possible Inter penalty. Achraf Hakimi went racing towards a spiraling deflected clearance, only to be dealt a cleat to his midsection from Nicolas Nkoulou. Hakimi was originally in an offside position when the ball was sent skywards, but because Nkoulou had controlled it prior to the foul, the offside was erased.
Lukaku sent Sirigu the wrong way on the ensuing spot kick and Inter found itself in the lead for the first time of the match.
Torino’s chase for an equalizer of its own left it exposed at the back and Lukaku and Lautaro made La Granata pay in the 90th minute. The Belgian was played in behind at midfield and went on a driving run into the box before laying a pass off to the penalty spot. A wide open Lautaro blasted home for his 5th of the campaign.
Suffering through the opening hour of a very disjointed, second-rate performance was made all the worth it thanks to Inter’s come from behind four goal romp. It was fantastic spirit and perseverance from Inter to fight back, but allowing the likes of Parma and now Torino to reach a two-goal lead is very much a cause for concern. Teams of higher quality (Milan, for instance) won’t allow Inter back into the game like Torino, who coincidentally has dropped the most points from winning positions in the Big Five leagues (15). Still, if the Nerazzurri can play like it did for the final half-hour on a consistent basis, it will be set for a strong campaign.
The heatmap displays Sunday’s state of affairs quite well. Inter went long stretches of the match, mainly in the first half, never penetrating into the final third. But contrary to what we’ve seen in recent matches, when Inter did go forward, it made the most of it. All four shots on target found the back of the net. For what seems like the first time this season, the Nerazzurri out-performed its expected goals of 3.75.
Handanovic - 6.5: Despite the two goals conceded, this was one of the Slovenian’s better games of 20/21 so far. He made a couple of solid saves and completed all but two of his seventeen passes. Nothing spectacular, but perhaps a performance like this one could boost his confidence and bring back the form that won him Goalkeeper of the Year in 18/19.
Bastoni - 6.5: Good but not great from the young center back as well. He lost track of Zaza on a lofted cross in the first half that allowed the Torino striker a free volley. Other than that, though, it was a solid showing which included a passing accuracy of 75/78 and six duels won.
Ranocchia - 6: The veteran didn’t look out of place in the starting lineup, and compensated for his lack of speed in transition by taking up a deeper position. He made 94% of his passes and won five of nine duels. Not bad, and even better is that De Vrij will be fully rested going into Madrid on Wednesday.
D’Ambrosio - 6: The Italian also had a solid match, though his yellow was unnecessary. There’s a clear talent gap between him an Skriniar (obviously), but 47 out of 51 passes completed and 7 out of 11 duels won is nothing to scoff at.
Young - 5: The 35-year-old left a lot to be desired against Torino. He allowed Zaza too much space for the opener, was marked out of doing much offensively by Zingo, and then committed a careless foul for the penalty.
Vidal - 5.5: The Chilean seems to be dealing with an international break hangover. He won just 30% of his 20 duels, which is usually an area in which he can be counted on. Vidal’s 35 out of 40 successful passes was encouraging, but he was more a passenger than anything else on Sunday.
Gagliardini - 5.5: The Italian was also largely invisible for much of the match. Out of all twenty out-field starters, he had the lowest touches total of just 35. Gaglairdini wasn’t that spectacular on the ball either, converting a so-so 85% of his total passes.
Barella - 6: It wasn’t the usual energy from Barella (that’s what an international break can do to you). His passing accuracy was also 85% but he did end up with second highest touches total (79) on Inter and won 10 of 16 duels.
Hakimi - 6: It’s been some time since Hakimi showed why he’s worth every penny that Inter paid for him. Recent performances havent been bad per se (except for Madrid), but his offensive output has gone down. He did well winning the penalty, but there wasn’t much more to write home about. Perhaps a masterclass against Madrid will rekindle the form we saw from the Morrocan is his first few games in Nerazzurri colors.
Sanchez - 7.5: Like Inter as a whole, Sanchez’ game was a tale of two halves to the extreme. His first half was full of giveaways, inclidung the one leading to Torino’s goal. After the break, though, he put together a superb performance with a goal, assist, and four key passes.
Lukaku - 8.5: Lukaku put in a hefty workload in the first half but didn’t have the final product to show for. Fortunately for Inter, the second half was the opposite. The Belgian played a part in each goal, notching two assist and two goals. His stellar form has continued into this season as Lukaku currently stands on nine goals in as many games.
Lautaro - 7: The Argentine’s nifty finish iced the win, but that was his only contribution along with just 12 touches and 4 passes in a 25 minute cameo.
Skriniar -7 : His presence off the bench was a calming one to Inter, which looked like a new team after the Slovakian came on. Having him fully fit for the Madrid clash with be vital if Inter is to earn a result.
Perisic/de Vrij/Nainggolan - NA
Conte’s side jump both Napoli and Atalanta into 5th, five behind league leaders Milan. Next up for the Nerazzurri is a schedule as packed as it was prior to the international stoppage. Inter hosts Madrid midweek in a must-win UCL clash before traveling to 2nd placed Sassuolo next Saturday. Inter is going to need to replicate the final thirty minutes against Torino and then some over the next one hundred-eighty, though. Both Madrid and Sassuolo are going to pose some serious questions but Inter is fully capable of finding the answers on its day.