After two exhausting victories over Napoli and Shakhtar, it was always going to be hard for Inter to rouse itself for a visit to Venice. The Nerazzurri sure had the look of a team that’s just traversed Europe and won two tremendously important games. But luckily for the good guys, it still had enough left in the tank to take all three points from the Stadio Pier Luigi Penzo. Hakan Calhanoglu scored the decisive goal with a belter from long range and just as the game slowly crept towards its conclusion, Lautaro iced the cake with a stoppage-time spot-kick.
Simone Inzaghi made just two changes from the team that beat Shakhtar midweek despite a packed schedule and the on-paper ease of a visit to Venezia. Alessandro Bastoni slid into the center of the back three and Federico Dimarco slotted in on the left in an attempt to keep Andrea Ranocchia from starting three games in a week. Lautaro Martinez was also replaced by Joaquin Correa. Denzel Dumfries, however, remained on the sidelines for the fifth straight game dating back to an October 31st clash against Udinese. The story couldn’t be more different for Nicolo Barella, who started his 19th of the campaign despite pregame rumors of a Roberto Gagliardini appearance.
Venezia lined up in Paolo Zanetti’s usual 4-3-3/4-3-2-1 shape, led by Nigerian forward David (great name if I do say so myself) Okereke. Milan and Chelsea loanees Mattia Caldara and Ethan Ampadu locked down the spine of the Arancioneroverdi, but United States youngster Gianluca Busio had control of the midfield.
The atmosphere at the Pier Luigi Penzo was one-of-a-kind but it took a while for the action on the pitch to live up to the billing. Inter had a slight edge in possession through the opening half-hour and heavily outshot Venezia 7-2, but quality chances had gone absent. The Nerazzurri’s best chance came from a Perisic header off a Darmian cross but Sergio Romero made a relatively untroubled diving save. The most exciting part of the game proved to be the incredible background of non-stop singing and drumming produced by Venezia’s supporters. Hakan Calhanoglu, however, was determined to wake us up from our reverie. The Turkish midfielder drew first blood with a lethal rocket from distance in the 34th minute.
HAKAN CALHANOGLU CHOOSES PRECISION pic.twitter.com/akbw2KXguK— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) November 27, 2021
Venezia almost responded immediately with its first shot of the night in the 39th minute. A long-range strike from Mattia Aramu took a peculiar swerving and curving flight path thanks to a deflection but Samir Handanovic was able to paw the ball over the crossbar just in time. Inter was able to guide its lead into the break with few other issues and went into halftime in clear control. The Nerazzurri had eleven shots (five on target) compared to Venezia’s sole effort and though possession was more even (54%-46%), Inter kept the ball pinned in Venezia’s half for the vast majority of play. All that was missing was precision in the final third.
Inter adopted a passive approach after the interval and allowed Venezia more of the pitch and ball. With the exception of another long-range Aramu attempt, however, the hosts failed to make much of a dent in the Inter half.
Inter had a pair of quality chances to double its lead but failed to take advantage. Ridgeciano Haps cleared a Skriniar header off the line in the 61st minute. Dzeko was then played in behind the defense eight minutes later but Sergio Romero closed the Bosnian down from a tight angle. The game fell back into the slow, uneventful tempo from the first half as the second period wore on. Inter didn’t seem particularly interested in sealing the victory and Inzaghi brought on the likes of Gagliardini, D’Ambrosio, and Vecino. Tired legs also started to rear their heads and all in all, the effect was an unnecessarily stressful final few minutes against an offensively toothless Venezia.
There was in fact late drama, but luckily it came at the Venezia goalmouth. A Lautaro shot from close range seemed to be blocked by the outstretched arm of a sliding Haps. The referee took a quick glance at the VAR monitor and pointed to the spot. El Toro stepped up to the spot and sent Romero the wrong way with the final kick of the evening.
Handanovic - 6: Aramu almost beat him from range but Handanovic managed to track the shot well enough despite its curl. Barely had anything else to do across the ninety minutes, as Venezia registered just one shot on target.
Dimarco - 7: Quietly one of Inter’s best performers. Led the team in touches (102), had 6 key passes, and 6 accurate long balls. He was far from error-free however, losing possession 16 times and occasionally slipping out of position.
Bastoni - 7: Despite playing in the more unfamiliar central center back role, Bastoni’s form barely slowed. Had 101 touches, a passing accuracy of 95%, 5 clearances, 3 tackles, and 7/8 successful long balls.
Skriniar - 7: Played a key role in locking down the Venezia attack and helped guide the younger duo of Bastoni and Dimarco to the shutout. Wasn’t quite as impactful in possession as the aforementioned pair but still had a very respectable 96% passing rate and one key pass. Also won eight duels, made 2 clearances, 2 interceptions, and 3 tackles.
Perisic - 6: A slightly subdued performance from the Croatian. Went 0 for 4 on cross attempts and had an overall minimal impact in the final third with just 49 touches. Put in a fair amount of defensive work, however, making two tackles and two interceptions.
Calhanoglu - 7.5 (Man of the Match): Gave Inter a spark of life (and quite possibly the three points) with his superb and unsavable goal. His stats sheet boasted a 91% passing rate, 3 duels won, and 3 accurate long balls. It was a bit of a surprise to see Calhanoglu withdrawn early but on the positive side, he should be well-rested for next time. He looks to have fully understood his role in Inter’s midfield and has been one of the Nerazzurri’s best players in recent weeks.
Brozovic - 7: Business as usual from Brozovic. Had the third-most touches on Inter, second-most accurate passes (an awe-inspiring 79 out of 81 attempts found their mark), 3 key passes, and 8/8 accurate long balls.
Barella - 5.5: Clearly starting to feel the effects of the miles of minutes on his legs. Has started every single game of the season so far, and while that’s an impressive feat, it also needs to stop sooner than later. It’s not for a lack of trying, but Barella’s body is struggling to keep up with the workload placed on it. He was a giveaway machine against Venezia and much of the game passed him by.
Darmian - 6: Was rather unremarkable, notching just 35 touches and having a 75% passing accuracy. Exited injured in the second half but will hopefully be good to go by next weekend’s visit to Roma.
Dzeko - 6: Not vintage Dzeko but also far from disastrous as well. Played more of a role in the build-up than the final third and made 2 key passes and 2 accurate long balls.
Correa - 5.5: Struggled to make any sort of impact. Got in dangerous areas a few times but couldn’t make anything happen, ending the night with 0 shots. His link-up play with Dzeko left a lot to be desired and he had the fewest touches of any starter.
Inzaghi - 7: A bit of a surprise to see Dumfries on the bench again. If he’s not getting chances against Venezia it makes you wonder when we’ll ever see him given the opportunity to shine. His subs seemed to take all of the initiative out of Inter but it’s hard to argue with the results. Venezia managed just six shots all game whereas Inter had 27. The expected goals of 0.19 to 2.60 just about tell the tale and much of the credit for Inter’s domination has to fall at the feet of the coach.
Inter is now the one point back of Milan and Napoli, who both play Sunday. The Nerazzurri continues its buzzsaw of a schedule when it hosts Spezia Wednesday before visiting Roma a week from now.
Let’s take one moment to appreciate this past week. Inter handed Napoli its first loss of the season Sunday, punched its ticket to the UCL knockout rounds and beat Shakhtar at long last Tuesday, and handled Venezia with ease Saturday. Juventus, by the way, currently sit eight (bwhahahahahahaha), were outscored 5-0 by Chelsea and Atalanta, and are now under investigation for false accounting.
Bravo, Inzaghi, and Forza Inter!