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Atalanta 1-1 Inter Milan: Recap

357th draw of the season. Or something like that.

Atalanta BC v FC Internazionale - Serie A Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images

Starting XIs

Atalanta’s XI (3-4-2-1)
Inter’s XI (3-5-2)

Antonio Conte made three changes to his starting eleven from the midweek clash with Real Madrid. Milan Skriniar returned to action after a lengthy coronavirus absence, while Matteo Damian and Alexis Sanchez slotted in for Achraf Hakimi and Ivan Perisic, respectively. The midfield trio of Vidal-Barella-Brozovic remained unchanged, however, and Romelu Lukaku was fit enough for the bench.

Atalanta, meanwhile, was forced to give a debut to 18-year-old Matteo Ruggeri at left wingback thanks to Robin Gosens’ injury. Center-back Jose Luis Palomino and midfielder Marten de Roon were also unavailable. Attack, though, featured all the usual suspects of Papu Gomez, Duvan Zapata, and Ruslan Malinovskiy in place of Luis Muriel and Josep Ilicic.

First Half

Both teams came out of the gates with a swift tempo. That lively start lasted through much of the first half. Chances, though, were few and far between. Inter held strong at the back, limiting Atalanta to just one shot on target from six efforts. Inter, though, had even less going forward. It tallied just four shots, all off target. The partnership of Sanchez and Lautaro was fruitless, to say the least. The two South Americans lacked anyone to play off of and were largely pushed to the periphery by Atalanta’s physical center-backs. Inter was crying out for the addition of a presence like Pinamonti or Lukaku to add another dimension to its attack.

Atalanta BC v FC Internazionale - Serie A Photo by Jonathan Moscrop/Getty Images

Second Half

Inter was on the front foot after the interval and it found the breakthrough in the 58th minute. Lautaro headed an Ashley Young cross beautifully into the far corner, his first league goal since early October.

he Nerazzurri were on top after taking the lead and almost doubled its lead within minutes. Vidal was in behind but his three-foot high shot couldn’t find a way past Marco Sportiello, who then made another diving save on Barella’s effort of the rebound. That miss proved very costly.

Gian Piero Gasperini started to make some changes, bringing on three new attacking faces. It paid off in the 79th minute as Aleksei Miranchuk opened his Serie A account. The Russian sent a curling, low effort into the bottom corner of the goal from the top of the box.

La Dea wasn’t content with just a point and went after a winner while Inter looked all over the place defensively. The Nerazzurri managed to hold on, however, and escape with a point.

Atalanta BC v FC Internazionale - Serie A Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images

For the fifth time this season Inter walk away from the pitch with neither win nor loss. And each time seems to be doubly as frustrating as the last. For the third time this season the Nerazzurri have dropped points after the 75th minute, this time from a winning position. Holding on to one-goal leads seems to be an impossible task for Inter and that’s costing Conte’s side. Inter has three draws to go with as many wins after seven match-days despite playing just three of the current top ten. This weekend’s results have dropped it into 7th on 12 points in Serie A, five off league leaders Milan.

Atalanta on the left, Inter on the right

Despite the disappointment regarding more lost points, a draw is in truth a fair result. Two sides that are very used to high-scoring matches failed to find full-gear Sunday. Whether it was the fatigue from playing two games a week on three straight occasions, or perhaps finding it more important to avoid another defeat immediately after respective UCL losses midweek and before the international break, we saw a rather muffled encounter. The stats and heatmap were almost identical. Atalanta had 53% possession but Inter outshot it 10-9 with just a combined five on target. As the heatmap showed, both teams consistently kept the other out of the final third but also didn’t just allow it to have heavy possession in deeper positions. It made for a watchable, though nowhere near spectacular, showing.

Atalanta BC v FC Internazionale - Serie A Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images

On the bright side, though, we finally saw the first-choice center-back trio of Bastoni-de Vrij-Skriniar in action and they didn’t disappoint. The lethal duo of Papu Gomez and Duvan Zapata were limited to a combined tally of one shot and just six touches in Inter’s box. La Dea still managed to get on the scoresheet but considering Inter’s defensive struggles of late, this performance is a bright sign of things to come if the aforementioned Nerazzurri defenders stay healthy.

Player Ratings

Handanovic - 6: The veteran had practically nothing to do all match, facing just two shots. Asking more of him on the goal would be harsh, as Miranchuk’s effort was hit with a pace and precision that any keeper would have had issue saving. Handanovic was solid with his feet, converting 21 of 24 passes to their intended destination.

Bastoni - 7: Again, an overall fairly solid showing from the backline. Bastoni’s quality showed against his former club, winning four of five duels and notching a passing accuracy of 88%.

de Vrij - 6.5: Last season’s Defender of the Year winner has not been in top form so far, but I would expect that to change as the back-three stabilizes. On Sunday he won just 20% of his duels.

Skriniar - 7: Inter definitely missed the Slovak international over his extended absence and it was a welcome sight seeing him back in the XI. Of course, there’s another international break right around the corner...

Young - 6: The Englishmen sent a superb cross to Lautaro for the opener, while also converting 80% of his passes. Another quality performance from Young who looks deserving of being the first-choice starter on the left flank.

Barella - 5.5: This was far removed from the youngster’s excellent midweek showing vs Real Madrid. He was nonexistent in the first half and the improvement he made in the second was minimal. Barella ended the game with 57 touches, the second-lowest tally on Inter.

Vidal - 5.5: Vidal’s one-v-one miss will possibly cost Inter the three points. Rather than go for precision, he tried to blast the ball past Sportiello, but instead made the veteran’s job a lot easier by keeping the shot within reaching distance and at an ideal height for a save. He also won just three out of seven duels, not at all what we’re used to from the Chilean.

Brozovic - 7 (Man of the Match: Brozovic completed the most successful passes on Inter, with 64 out of 71 finding their target. He also had a team-high touches total of 81. Once again an excellent performance from the Croatian, who has really turned around his form recently.

Darmian - 5.5: Not great from the Parma loanee. The Italian notched a passing accuracy of just 64% passing, though did win five of seven duels. Hakimi clearly needed the rest, but there’s no denying the Moroccan is the clear starter at right-wing.

Lautaro - 6: He may have scored, but yet again this was a poor showing from the Argentine. Losing seven of nine duels, completing just thirteen passes (62%), and notching a team-low of 38 touches is never good, especially when you’re relied on to be the main threat while Lukaku is injured.

Sanchez - 5.5: Speaking of misfiring attackers, Sanchez fits the bill perfectly. His return to the starting lineup surely didn’t go as planned, winning just four of twelve duels, six touches in the box, and zero shots.

Conte - 6: Everything from the starting eleven to substitutions were all perfectly reasonable, and that’s all you can ask for. Now, whether the complexer issues tripping Inter up will get solved sooner rather than later is another matter.

The Nerazzurri have a two-week “break” thanks to the resumption of international football. Inter returns Sunday the 22nd against Torino and then takes on Real Madrid, Sassuolo, Monchengladbach, Bologna, and Shakhtar in its next four. Results in all of those matches will be vital for both Inter’s European and domestic hopes.

Enjoy your two weeks of peace.