Sometimes 0-0 draws require a considerable effort to sit through and are ninety minutes wasted. Not this one, though. Inter Milan’s Match-week 35 clash against Fiorentina consisted of plenty of chances, but Fiorentina’s backup (yep, you heard that right, back-up) goalkeeper stood on his head to preserve a point for La Viola.
In the midst of a monstrous rain pounding down onto the San Siro pitch, the first half got off to a lively start. Inter had many opportunities to open the scoring early on. First, a set piece pinballed through the box before landing at the feet of Romelu Lukaku, but his close range effort was of course stopped by a diving Terracciano. Then, a Nicolò Barella half-volley from some distance buzzed along the ground and almost snuck into the corner of the goal, if not for a quick reaction from Terracciano. The 18th minute was home to the best of such chances. Christian Eriksen crafted an excellent cross that was flicked onto the back post by a grazing Lukaku header. There was nothing Terracciano could have done, but luck smiled to La Viola.
After Stefan de Vrij picked up a knock serious enough to take him out of the game, the tempo slowed and Inter found comfort in possession. The Nerazzurri didn’t earn a goal for its troubles, but came exceptionally close in the 34th minute. The ex-Man United duo of Ashley Young and Lukaku combined to set the Belgian up with a point-blank look on goal. Inter’s leading scorer finished poorly, however, sending the ball directly at Terracciano, who expertly shut down the angle.
Inter was the superior side in the first forty-five, outshooting Fiorentina 8-2 and controlling 60% of the possession. The Nerazzurri was lacking much of a threat outside of Lukaku, however, as Alexis Sánchez wasn’t as effective as we’ve become used to in the last few weeks.
Inter was on the front foot from the whistle in the second forty five. Antonio Candreva put the ball in the back of the net in the 50th minute but was offside. There was no issue two minutes latest when Alexis Sánchez, in his first notable contribution to the match, struck the post from a low shot at the top of the box.
With so much going right for Inter, and yet the most important thing still unaccounted for, it seemed inevitable that Fiorentina would snatch the lead on the counter attack. The absence of Chiesa may have slightly hampered the chances of that, but chances there were. In the 57th minute, a rapid transition resulted in an uninhibited look at goal for Gaetano Castrovilli, but the 23-year-old put his effort right at Samir Handanović. Inter got lucky there, and it would again in the 79th minute. Chiesa had since made his way on as a sub, and his cross found Pol Lirola in the six-yard-box. The Spaniard’s attempt was blocked by Handanović’s knee, even as the Slovenian was moving in the opposite direction.
Even as the clock wore down, Inter never increased the pressure on La Viola and lacked another level to shift to in order to penetrate Beppe Iachini’s side.
Inter did just about everything it could short of scoring in the 1st half, but then fell off a bit in the second. The Nerazzurri failed to create the same quality of chances as before, even as it increased it’s shot tally from 8 to 19. Still, Inter’s expected goals completely overran Fiorentina’s, 2.59 to 0.63. And yet, the scoreline was level thanks to faulty finishing. Lukaku was overwhelmingly the most guilty, totaling an xg of 1.2 across the ninety minutes. He, though, had an incredible game compared to Lautaro Martínez. The Argentine’s cameo was error strewn, included a shot that almost went out for a throw in, and was quite simply a very poor performance. The player from earlier this season appears to no longer exist. Thanks, Barça.
On to the maps.
From each team’s chart of touches, you can get a good sense of the flow of the game. For example, that wayward Inter shot that almost went out for a corner was of course Lautaro’s work. First, Inter dominated midfield was able to advance deep into La Viola’s half with the ball, as you can see by the block of orange from near Zone 14 and out. Fiorentina repelled Inter from getting any deeper, at least through the middle. Having Achraf Hakimi next season will make such approaches much more risky, but its working against Inter this season. The visitors, on the other hand, bypassed the midfield when it attacked, and broke forward quickly on the wings.
If Juventus beat Udinese this evening, the Old Lady will have its ninth straight Scudetto, but there’s not much Inter can do about that anymore. Instead, it’s a matter of either 2nd, 3rd, or 4th. Or, the first, second, or third loser, as Antonio Conte so elegantly put it. Next on the Nerazzurri’s schedule is relegation threatened Genoa on Saturday. Until then!