Six days after a triumphant and emphatic 90-minute display over Juventus, Inter Milan found themselves unable to break down a resolute Udinese side in the cold rain at the foot of the Alps in Udine on Saturday evening. With the match starting at the same time as Milan’s match at home against Atalanta, Inter looked to have a prime opportunity to go top of Serie A on goal difference, but a lack of creativity to penetrate the Udinese low block and a lack of finishing quality in front of goal instead means Inter gain only one point on their city rivals, who they will face in the Coppa Italia on Tuesday.
In an attempt to keep some momentum going from last weekend, Conte went with an unchanged lineup from last weekend. With six days of rest, it was a logical decision to make. Rotations are more likely to come for Coppa Italia matches, especially in a title push like Inter find themselves in this season.
Udinese, meanwhile, played a match they had in hand against Atalanta from earlier in the season just two days prior to facing Inter. The Friulians managed a 1-1 draw on Wednesday and still only opted for one change to their lineup, dropping midfielder Rolando Mandragora in favor of another attacker upfront in the form of Gerard Deulofeu. Manager Luca Gotti made this change presumably to give his side more counterattacking threat, something Inter have struggled to cope with at times this season.
UDINESE (3-5-2): Musso; Becao, Bonifazi, Samir; Larsen, De Paul, Arslan, Pereyra, Zeegelaar; Deulofeu, Lasagna.
INTER (3-5-2): Handanovic; Skriniar, de Vrij, Bastoni; Hakimi, Barella, Brozovic, Vidal, Young; Lukaku, Lautaro.
As an ominous sign for things to come in the match, Inter started almost instantly on the back foot. The Inter-linked Rodrigo De Paul and former Milan loan signing Deulofeu linked up to cause some problems for the visitors. De Paul delivered a very nice ball into the box, which was headed just over the bar by Jens Stryger Larsen. Handanovic was also forced into an easy save early before a giveaway by Rodrigo Becao in the Udinese box straight to Lautaro gave the Nerazzurri perhaps their best chance of the entire match, but another Inter linked player in Juan Musso made a great diving save to deny his Argentine compatriot.
After the Musso save, chances were at a premium for Inter. Nicolo Barella almost made his way back into the headlines in spectacular fashion with a volley from outside of the box that curled just wide of Musso’s post. Arturo Vidal also had a pretty decent half chance but scuffed it harmlessly.
The second half started a bit like the first, Udinese created the first chance of the half again through the playmaking abilities of De Paul. His ball into the box found Kevin Lasagna then Roberto Pereyra, who could not bring the ball down cleanly as his volleyed effort went over Samir Handanovic’s crossbar. De Paul and Pereyra linked up again shortly after, with the latter putting a ball into the former, whose shot curled just wide. Two warnings from Udinese early in the second half, who looked the more dangerous from the second-half whistle.
Beyond the two chances, Inter’s defense began to sure themselves up, snuffing out any counterattacking opportunities Udinese tried to launch as Inter began to desperately search for the winning goal. The second half substitutions by Conte that brought on Alexis Sanchez, Ivan Perisic, and Stefano Sensi were made in hopes of sharpening Inter’s dull attack seemed to liven things up a little, but did not amount to anything. Late on, an incisive move engineered by Sensi and Sanchez ended with a shot from Achraf Hakimi that went just inches wide and felt like a summation of the entire match. Close, but not clinical enough.
The match also ended with some fireworks on the touchline, as Conte and technical Gabriele Oriali both received red cards from referee Fabio Maresca. Conte could be heard shouting something along the lines of “[it’s] always you, even in the VAR [...]”, referring to his presence as the video assistant referee in Inter’s draw with Parma, where Inter were denied a penalty after a foul on Ivan Perisic late in the match. Conte also went on to say that his dissent was linked to the amount of stoppages in the latter parts of Saturday’s match. With this, both Conte and Oriali will miss Inter’s next league match at home to Benevento, but will be in the technical area for the derby in the Coppa Italia.
Handanovic - 6: No big tests in goal for the captain. Can’t really be faulted for anything. Two clean sheets in a row at least though, am I right?
Skriniar - 6.5: The usual back three have fully gelled this season. Skriniar has found a home on the right and helped eliminate any risk on the counter in this match. Respectable performance.
de Vrij - 6.5 (MOTM, I guess): Always the director of the defense, kept Lasagna and Deulofeu at bay for most of the night. Even moved out of his central comfort zone at times with great effect.
Bastoni - 6: After a performance that was mature beyond his years against Juventus, he tended to lose his head a couple of times. Bad foul to commit for his yellow card. Still a decent performance all things considered.
Hakimi - 5: Perhaps bogged down by the swampy pitch, but looked very indecisive and turnover-prone in this match. He could get into position, but then lost all threat. Rough day at the office for him, also could’ve turned home two chances.
Barella - 6: Decent all-around performance, which is par for the course this season for him. That volleyed chance would have been spectacular, but the rub of the green was not on his side. Could have used a bit more accuracy on his crosses as well.
Brozovic - 6: While he played well for most of the match, the arm swinging frustrated Brozo made an appearance towards the end. Nothing is more frustrating to watch than a frustrated Brozovic, but he did well outside of the latter moments of the match when everyone seemed to be losing their heads, which is a whole different can of worms to open with this team.
Vidal - 6: Not quite the dominant performance of last weekend for the Chilean, but he still did well in a midfield that opposed the likes of De Paul. He helped to keep the Argentine quiet for large swaths of the match, which really gives opposing teams a leg up when facing Udinese.
Young - 5.5: The Englishman has yet to have a standout performance this season. He provided a couple of dangerous crosses, including one that Hakimi got caught under his feet in a dangerous area, but was anonymous other than that. It may be time to give Darmian another runout on the left, if he’s fit.
Lukaku - 6: Hard to blame anything on him when he barely got a sniff of the ball. Perhaps a few balls knocked into the channels for him to run onto would have been effective, but very little of that was happening. Another quiet game for the Belgian, who Inter really need to get going again.
Lautaro - 5.5: The wastefulness bug has the Argentine down bad. Should really have finished the free chance on the Becao giveaway, but his former Racing Club teammate Musso made the save. His redeeming quality lately has been his work off the ball, which no one can complain about.
Sensi - 5.5: Looked like he still had his mind on the trainer’s table when he came on. Committed a few senseless fouls, including one that almost earned him a second red card of the season as he pulled down Lasagna when he might have been in on goal. Not vintage Sensi at all.
Perisic - 5.5: Marginally better than Young when he came on, but did nothing to really change the trajectory of the match. Conte needs to settle on a single position for him.
Alexis - 6: The only sub to come on and really get into the action. Digging out balls in the midfield and making passes that were different to anything anyone had offered before he came on. This almost resulted in a Hakimi goal. Still not enough, though.
Conte - 4: Set up the team in the best possible way given recent results, but away form seems to be a problem all of a sudden. Lost his head spectacularly and continued his shouting match with Maresca after the final whistle in the players’ tunnel. Hopefully, the incoming ban is not lengthy.
In all, there was still one point gained on Milan, who Inter get a second shot at on Tuesday in the Coppa. Hopefully it is time to get revenge for this season’s first derby loss and make a statement of intent against them that will carry over into the second half of the league season.