Interisti’s holiday gift has come a few days early in the form of a Denzel Dumfries-inspired win over Torino. The Nerazzurri were made to work for it by a Granata side that refused to give Inter an inch but through a combination of defensive stoutness, fortune, and one moment of quality in the final third, the good guys closed the curtain on 2021 in a successful fashion and marked its sixth straight (!!!) shutout victory in Serie A.
Inzaghi made three changes from the team that beat Salernitana 5-0, with Milan Skriniar resuming his spot in the back three, Vidal replacing the suspended Barella for his first league start of the season, and Lautaro partnering Dzeko upfront. Ivan Juric’s Torino lined up in his favored 3-4-2-1, headlined by Antonio Sanabria, Marko Pjaca, and Josip Brekalo.
Inter had control of possession throughout the opening stages but the first chance fell to the visitors when a wide-open Bremer put a header right at Handanovic off a corner. Torino had a scattering of half-chances throughout the next few minutes, the most dangerous of which was a curling Marko Pjaca effort that drifted just wide of the post in the 18th minute. Inter’s first real chance came in the 20th minute. A Perisic header sprung Bastoni in behind the Torino backline but the defender’s lack of conviction allowed Ola Aina to catch up and send the ball out for a corner before Bastoni could pull off a shot. Luckily Inter wouldn’t come to regret that miss. Denzel Dumfries made it 1-0 to the good guys in the 30th minute, capping off a lightning-quick counterattack and unintentional (though he might claim otherwise) Brozovic dummy with a smooth finish.
A GOAL IN BACK TO BACK MATCHES FOR DENZEL DUMFRIES pic.twitter.com/o3eVwcJYnq— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) December 22, 2021
Lautaro had a golden opportunity to double Inter’s lead in the 37th minute when a Calhanoglu through-ball found him one-on-one with Vanja Milimkovic-Savic. Lautaro rounded Sergej’s brother only to send the ball into the side netting.
By the time halftime rolled around, Inter had a 60% edge in possession and nine shots compared to Torino’s seven. Both had two on target though, and there weren’t many quality chances to go around. Inter did well to limit Torino from much of anything in the final third, though La Granata proved to be as tough a test as was expected from an Ivan Juric coached side.
Torino came out of the break with intent, keeping Inter from finding its footing in the second period. The Nerazzurri lacked the control it showed in the first half and was pinned in its own half for long stretches. Torino’s best chance came in the 66th minute. La Granata won a freekick in the perfect range to goal but Sasa Lukic’s effort was pawed away by a diving Handanovic. Inzaghi went to his bench to try and reignite the hosts, bringing on Matias Vecino and Alexis Sanchez in favor of Calhanoglu and Lautaro.
Sanchez offered Inter signs of life in the final third but the Nerazzurri’s overall sluggishness meant we were in for a nervy final few minutes. Luckily, fate smiled on Inter and the hosts took all three points by a scoreline of 1-0.
Handanovic - 6.5: Only faced three shots on target, the most difficult which was the Lukic freekick. Inter’s veteran keeper did well to keep out the Serbian’s attempt and can add one more clean sheet to his tally.
Bastoni - 7: Should have done better with his one-v-one chance in the first half but it’s hard to put much blame on a center-back for poor finishing. Bastoni was defensively sound and put Wilfried Singo in his pocket. Won 8 duels, made 3 clearances, and 3 tackles.
de Vrij - 7.5: Was a force to be reckoned with at the back and helped keep Antonio Sanabria quieter than a library. Won 10 duels, made 2 interceptions, 3 clearances, and 4 tackles.
Skriniar - 6.5: The least active of Inter’s back three, though he still boasted a 94% passing rate and 4 clearances.
Perisic - 6.5: A solid two-way performance from the Croatian. Had one key pass and four cross attempts along with six duels won, 2 interceptions, and 3 tackles.
Calhanoglu - 6.5: Unfortunate not to notch an assist, as he sliced through the Torino defense with pin-point through balls to Lautaro on several occasions, only for the Argentine’s finishing to go wanting. Also tallied five cross attempts and three successful long balls in an active, if not entirely successful evening for the 27-year-old.
Brozovic - 6: When Brozovic is off the pace, Inter’s off the pace. That was the case in the second half, as the Croatian saw his impact dwindle simultaneously as Torino took over the match. Despite leading Inter in touches, his tally of 89 was law by his lofty standards, as was a passing rate of 86%.
Vidal - 7: A solid showing in his first Serie A start of the season, but it’s clear Inter missed Barella’s energy in the center of the park. Still, the Chilean had a 94% passing accuracy, a team-high four key passes, blocked three shots, and won 4 duels.
Dumfries - 7.5 (Man of the Match): Continued his red-hot form with a smart finish to give Inter the lead and eventually the three points. Didn’t do much otherwise but scoring the game-winner in a 1-0 affair is always well worth Man of the Match honors. It’s great to see the Dutchman at his best after a rough start to life in Italy and you can tell it means a lot to him.
Dzeko - 6.5: Assisted the game-winner with a smart ball across the middle and was constantly engaged in battles with Torino’s trio of center backs, winning a team-high 14 duels out of 24. The Bosnian was also a key component of Inter’s build-up and notched the second-most touches on the team with 65. His legs failed him as the second half wore on, however, and he ended up leading Inter in 27 giveaways.
Lautaro - 5.5: Couldn’t make things click Wednesday. Ended his evening with the fewest touches of any starter (27), a 46% passing accuracy, and one chance in which he really should have done better with.
Inzaghi - 6.5: Came dangerously close to losing complete control of the affair in the second half but managed to hold on in the end. Bringing on Sanchez was the right move but Vecino was a give-away machine. All in all, though, it’s hard to complain about a win in which the opposition barely had a single clear look on goal.
Inter has first place locked up going into the new year and now moves to 47 points, four clear of Milan and seven of Napoli. The Nerazzurri will be back in action on Thursday, January 6th with a visit to Bologna before a home clash against Lazio the following Sunday. The kicks off a wild January slate which includes a Super Coppa against Juve (on the 12th), a visit to Atalanta (the 16th), a Coppa Italia tie vs Empoli (the 19th), and a Venezia game on the 22nd.
But for now, Inter can enjoy ending a wild year on top of the Serie A table.
Forza Inter and happy holidays to all!