For about one hour Sunday afternoon, it looked a lot like Udinese and its impermeable defense was going to trip Inter up once again. The good guys were going to need a moment of magic to break through the side from Friuli and Joaquin Correa was happy to oblige. An exquisite brace from the Argentine brightened up a cloudy Milan sky and kept Inter on track with a vital three points.
Simone Inzaghi continued to rotate, making seven changes from the team that beat Empoli 2-0. Milan Skriniar, Edin Dzeko, and Ivan Perisic regained their starting spots while Stefan de Vrij, Lautaro Martinez, and Matteo Darmian dropped to the bench. Andrea Ranocchia, Denzel Dumfries, and Joaquin Correa all got rare starts in return.
Udinese lined up in Luca Gotti’s usual back-three system, albeit with three more natural attackers on the field. Beto, Isaac Success, and Roberto Pereyra formed the attacking trident.
The first chance of the game fell to Udinese in the fifth minute. A cross bobbled around in the box before Danish fullback Jens Stryger-Larsen directed a low shot goalwards, but Samir Handanovic was up to the task. Inter had to wait a little longer for its first look at Marco Silvestri’s net. The 30-year-old made a fine stop on a Barella effort from the top of the box in the 13th minute. Barella continued to play the starring role in the Nerazzurri’s attack and forced Silvestri into another superb save with a half-volley in the penalty area at the half-hour mark.
With the exception of a scattering of half-chances, however, Inter struggled to find any sort of rhythm against Udinese’s low block. The visitors’ customary 3-5-2 gave the Nerazzurri a vast majority in possession but Inter couldn’t make it count. Inzaghi’s side held 68% of the ball but put just two shots on target (out of eight total), equal to Udinese’s tally. The likes of Joaquin Correa and Edin Dzeko were mere bystanders, so Inzaghi went into the break surely knowing change was needed if three points were to be taken.
The second half began with a hectic end-to-end opening but soon returned to long periods of methodical Inter possession. The good guys became increasingly frustrated as the game wore on but luckily a certain handsome Argentine had other ideas. Correa broke the deadlock on the hour-mark with a dazzling individual effort, sparked by a Perisic dummy.
THE DUMMY FROM IVAN PERISIC. THE FINISH FROM JOAQUIN CORREA. pic.twitter.com/wpTIKm7cQ7— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) October 31, 2021
Udinese tried to respond immediately, taking its first shot of the second half in the 67th minute. Inter couldn’t be troubled, however, and almost made it 2-0 moments later when both Dzeko and Dumfries had close-range efforts blocked by last-ditch tackles. The Nerazzurri wasn’t deterred and had to wait barely sixty seconds before beating Silvestri once more. Correa was again the star of the show, with Dumfries providing a classy assist.
JOAQUIN CORREA GETS HIS BRACE IN STYLE pic.twitter.com/JFmmDdyxU7— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) October 31, 2021
Inzaghi went to his bench with a two-goal lead secured, bringing on the Chilean duo of Alexis Sanchez and Arturo Vidal. Inter began to play with freedom and had a handful of chances to extend its lead. Udinese wasn’t down and out just yet, though, and super-sub Gerard Deulofeu almost sparked a comeback. The Spaniard’s first shot of the afternoon forced a sprawling Handanovic to paw the ball over the crossbar. The ensuing corner created even more trouble for the hosts and after a wild pin-ball sequence, Deulofeu poked an attempt past Handanovic, only for the offsides flag to (correctly) bailout Inter’s clean sheet.
Handanovic - 6.5: A solid outing from the veteran. It’s usually a good thing if we don’t hear his name mentioned very often and today was no exception. Dealt with anything Udinese could throw at him well, making five saves.
Bastoni - 7.5: One of his best games yet this season. Struggled to adapt during the opening few weeks but was back to the Bastoni of old today. Led Inter in touches (110), had 11/14 accurate long balls, 2 key passes, 2 interceptions, and the assist on Correa’s first.
Ranocchia - 7.5: Lack of playing time had no ill effect on the veteran in his first start of the season. Won 12 duels, made 6 clearances, had 8 long balls, and the 3rd most touches on Inter.
Skriniar - 7: Having the midweek round off did Skriniar well. Made 3 clearances, 2 interceptions, 2 tackles, and blocked one shot. Wasn’t stellar in possession with an 88% passing accuracy but completed 5 long balls.
Perisic - 7: Helped create Correa’s opener with a neat dummy and was a presence on both sides of the ball. The Croatian’s start to the season has gone under the radar but he’s been a reliable piece week in, week out. Losing him on a free when his contract expires in the summer would hurt.
Calhanoglu - 6.5: One of his better performances in recent weeks. Made more of a presence in possession than usual and had one key pass, but went just 4 for 14 on crosses and long balls combined.
Brozovic - 7: Another first-rate performance from the Croatian. Had a 95% passing rate, 7 accurate long balls, 2 interceptions, and 5 duels won.
Barella - 7.5: Barella continued his impressive (and slightly worrying) run of starting every single match of the season so far. Was Inter’s main attacking outlet in the first half and unlucky not to score. Won 7 duels, went 3 for 3 on long balls and had one key pass.
Dumfries - 6.5: Continues to having growing pains in Italy. His final product left a lot to be desired and he seems to be trying too hard. Played a smart pass back to Correa to assist Inter’s second, showing he has the potential to be a real threat for the Nerazzurri.
Dzeko - 6.5: Struggled to get involved, especially in the first half. Ended his afternoon with 30 touches and just one shot. Udinese’s back-three did well to shut the Bosnian down and limit his service but he’ll need to offer more against Sheriff midweek.
Correa - 8 (Man of the Match): It was a tale of two halves for the Argentine. Was practically invisible in the first half and barely made a dent in the final third. Showed his talent after the interval, scoring both goals with stellar finishes.
Sanchez/Vidal - 6: Brought an immediate energy boost and had their chances to add a third, while Vidal’s defensive work helped secure the clean sheet.
Sensi/Lautaro/Dimarco - NA: Came on late to see the game out. Good to see Sensi getting game time after another spell on the sidelines.
Inzaghi - 7: Kept back-to-back clean sheets for the first time since January 2021 (Parma and Roma), hopefully, a sign that Inter has put its earlier defensive struggles to bed and has greater balance across the field. His rotation in the past two games also paid off and managing workloads is especially important during this incredibly busy stretch of the calendar.
Inter has a monumental week on the horizon, so starting it off on the right foot was crucial. The Nerazzurri travel to Moldova to take on Sheriff Wednesday before the derby against Milan Sunday. After that comes yet another international break but the focus now is on perhaps one of the biggest weeks of the season.