Antonio Conte made just two changes from the Crotone team, bringing Roberto Gagliardini in for Arturo Vidal and Alexis Sanchez for Romelu Lukaku. The Belgian picked up a slight thigh injury Sunday, and though it has been determined to be nothing serious, better safe than sorry with Roma coming up Sunday. Sampdoria, meanwhile, lined up in its customary 4-4-2, headlined by ex-Inter players Keita Balde at striker and Antonio Candreva on the right flank.
Inter was all over Sampdoria from the opening whistle, creating three decent opportunities before the tenth-minute mark. None found the back of the net, but the Nerazzurri then had a chance from the penalty spot. A corner flicked off the outstretched arm of Morten Thorsby. After consulting the VAR monitor, referee Paolo Valeri pointed to the spot. Inter couldn’t take advantage, though, as Emil Audero came up big.
Alexis Sanchez penalty miss and Ashley Young hitting the crossbar from the rebound pic.twitter.com/1n3e5MKrIc— InterVids (@VidsInter) January 6, 2021
The rhythm that the Nerazzurri had exhibited so prevalently was nowhere to be seen after the miss. Instead, it was Sampdoria which took the initiative. Lorenzo Tonelli sent a header pinging off the crossbar in the 14th minute. The hosts then thought it had earned a penalty of its own a minute later. Lautaro blocked a Jacob Jankto volley with his hand, but VAR once again stepped in to alert Valeri that the Argentine committed the foul outside the box. In the 23r minute, though, Sampdoria would in fact get its spot-kick. Nicolo Barella’s wayward arm blocked a Tonelli header, and though the referee needed VAR, a penalty was never in doubt. Candreva capitalized from the spot against his old club.
Inter looked lifeless after the opener and Sampdoria carved through the Nerazzurri for number two in the 38th minute. Mikkel Damsgaard went on a driving run from midfield to deep in the Inter half when he played a square pass across the goal and Keita Balde powered a first-time effort home.
Lautaro almost halved the Blucerchiati’s lead in the 45th minute when he headed an Achraf Hakimi cross inches wide from close range. Overall, though, Inter rarely tested Audero’s goal, putting just 3 out of 11 shots on target. All of those came before the penalty, after which Inter deflated and fell victim to a determined Sampdoria attack.
Sampdoria retreated into its shell after the break and Inter poured forward, though with varying results. The Nerazzurri controlled 72% of possession in the second period, with 13 shots and 7 corners compared to Sampdoria’s 1 and 0, respectively. In the 65th minute Inter eventually pulled itself back into the game thanks to a Stefan de Vrij header.
Sampdoria 2-1 Inter (Stefan de Vrij) pic.twitter.com/b79Ylzqhhm— InterComps (@InterComps) January 6, 2021
Though Inter had all the momentum, it failed to find an equalizer in the remaining half-hour or even a clear look on goal against a sturdy Sampdoria defense.
Inter’s winning streak had to stop eventually, though the manner in which it did is especially painful. With a win, the Nerazzurri could have claimed first depending on the result in Milan/Juve. Furthermore, though, Inter is now going into two crucial back-to-back clashes with Roma and Juventus without the momentum a good run of form offers. And even worse, those two matches have become double as important thanks to defeat in Genoa. Still, every team has off games like this, and if Sanchez scores that early penalty we’re surely talking about a completely different story.
Handanovic - 6: The Slovenian perhaps could have done better on Keita’s goal, in which he was able to get a hand to the ball, but not keep it out. Other than the two goals, his afternoon was rather quiet, though he did make an important diving save on a Samp counter.
Bastoni - 6: Bastoni was burned by Damsgaard in the build-up to Sampdoria’s second in a way he very rarely is. He was able to turn it around, ending the match with the most accurate passes (70), 3 clearances, and 4 duels won.
de Vrij - 7: The Dutchman’s goal ended up resulting in nothing, but it was a solid headed finish. He was solid on the ball, making 88% of his passes, and won 4 duels.
Skriniar - 6.5: Skriniar was guilty of giving Keita Balde too much space in the box on his goal, but had a well-rounded game otherwise. He made 99% of his passes, all 5 long balls found their target, and he lost possession just once, while also winning the most duels (8).
Young - 5: Young is generally a low-risk, low-reward starter, but his 45 minutes of action against Sampdoria were especially low on “reward.” He had a mere 24 touches and a passing accuracy of 67%. Mateo Darmian looks most deserving of the starting role against Roma.
Gagliardini - 5: The Italian offered nothing at either end and his touch total of 33 was second-lowest among Nerazzurri outfield starters. With Vidal dealing with struggles of his own as well, the third midfield starting spot looks up for grabs unless Stefano Sensi can regain fitness.
Brozovic - 6.5: Brozovic sent in the corner kick delivery that de Vrij headed home (his 4th assist of the season), and had a quality outing overall. He had both the 4th most touches (65) and successful passes (43. Most importantly, though, he avoided the yellow card that would have suspended him for the Roma clash.
Barella - 6: Barella has had plenty of incredible showings this season, but Wednesday was not one of them. Having his hands up in the air in the box is a mistake you don’t expect Barella to make, while he also walked a fine line between a second yellow throughout the game.
Hakimi - 7: The Morrocan was a rare bright spot in the first half, and though he quieted as the match wore on, it was still a positive outing. He had 3 key passes and the 3rd most touches on Inter, though his final product was sometimes lacking.
Lautaro - 5: This was a far cry from the Argentine’s hat-trick performance over Crotone. He sent 6 of 7 shots off target, lost possession 17 times, and had a 44% passing accuracy. This was his chance to step up with Lukaku out injured, but instead Inter’s dependency on a fully fit Lukaku was exposed even more.
Sanchez - 5: It was a disappointing return to the starting lineup for Sanchez. Why he was the one to take the penalty remains a mystery. He had missed 7/11 of his previous spot-kick attempts, and the Chilean’s weak effort against Sampdoria did him no favors either.
Perisic - 5: Entering at halftime for Young to provide a greater attacking threat, Perisic struggled to make an impact. Just 1 of his 5 crosses found a target, the Croatian had a 63% passing accuracy, and he lost the ball the 4th most times (14) on Inter despite only playing one half.
Lukaku - 5: The Belgian didn’t look like he was at full fitness. In fact, quite the opposite. Lukaku had only 8 touches and completed two out of five passes. Whether this thirty-minute cameo will affect his readiness for Roma on Sunday remains to be seen, but Inter may need to start Lukaku at all costs in order to get a result.
Inter returns to action Sunday when it travels to the capitol to meet third-placed Roma, which ends Matchday 16 only three points behind the Nerazzurri. But thanks to Milan’s 3-1 defeat to Juventus, Inter is still one point behind the Rossoneri, though the gap between Juve is now six points. These next two matches against Roma and the Old Lady are crucial to Inter’s Scudetto hopes. Time to start another win streak.