Inter’s reunion with the man who led it to the treble in 2010 was always going to offer fireworks (this is the Special One we’re talking about, after all) but it was all highlights from the Nerazzurri perspective. Hakan Calhanoglu’s ‘olimpico’ wondergoal got the action started early and Inter never looked back, racing past a frozen Roma to a 3-0 lead before halftime. In fact, it was all summer newcomers on the scoresheet for Inter. Dzeko (the Lukaku replacement) and Dumfries (in for Hakimi) added their names to the boxscore alongside Calhanoglu (who replaced Eriksen).
The neat symmetry of that stat paled, however, in comparison to the superb football on display from Inzaghi’s side as a whole. The Nerazzurri are showing all of the hallmarks of Inzaghi Ball, keeping tons of the ball and creating countless chances in the final third. The early season defensive worries are no longer as well; Inter has kept four straight clean sheets and limited a Roma attack of Mkhitaryan, Zaniolo, and Shomurodov to one shot on target.
Inzaghi Ball is here, and it’s beautiful.
Facing a slight selection crisis in defense, Simone Inzaghi decided to spring a few surprises with the starting eleven. Stefan de Vrij, Matteo Darmian, and Andrea Ranocchia were sidelined with injury so Danilo D’Ambrosio and Denzel Dumfries were given the go-ahead. Interestingly, Joaquin Correa got the nod over Lautaro Martinez, who was joined by Federico Dimarco on the bench.
Roma’s situation was even direr and Jose Mourinho was forced to contend with six players out, including Loreno Pellegrini and Tammy Abraham. Both wingbacks were also sidelined, so Roma rolled out a rather unique 5-3-2ish shape with four centerbacks and one fullback in the backline.
It took a few minutes for the game to kick into gear after a slow opening, but the wait was worth it. Inter drew first blood fifteen minutes in thanks to a spectacular Calhanoglu strike. The Turk scored an olimpico at the Stadio Olimpico, sending the ball through Rui Patricio’s legs and into the back of the net directly from the corner.
HAKAN ÇALHANOĞLU SCORED DIRECTLY FROM THE CORNER KICK AND NUTMEGGED RUI PATRICIO pic.twitter.com/9u3UjucKz1— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) December 4, 2021
Calhanoglu was feeling himself after the opener and set up Inter’s second with a superb assist in the 24th minute. He drifted through Roma’s defense before laying the ball back to Dzeko who found the top corner.
EDIN DZEKO PUNISHES HIS FORMER CLUB pic.twitter.com/xThl4MPgY7— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) December 4, 2021
The Nerazzurri’s two-goal lead gave it complete control over a shellshocked Roma, whose defensive lineup made it impossible for the midfield to get on the ball, let alone hold on to possession. Dzeko came close to a brace in the 29th minute, but a fully outstretched Patricio was able to paw away the Bosnian’s low effort. Roma almost pulled one back in the 37th minute. A Mancini cross found Veretout unmarked at the back post but a sliding Dumfries kept the Frenchman’s shot from finding the back of the net. Dumfries got in on the action at the other end just minutes later, scoring his first of the season off a peach-perfect Bastoni cross. The 25-year-old is now the 14th different scorer for Inter in league play.
DENZEL DUMFRIES GETS HIS FIRST SERIE A GOAL ⚽️— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) December 4, 2021
INTER MILAN GET THEIR THIRD pic.twitter.com/ewRymYONdv
By the time the curtains dropped on the first half, the stats sheet mirrored the domination displayed on the scoreline. Inter boasted 71% possession and 8 shots (four on target), compared to Roma’s five attempts and just one that found its way to Handanovic’s goal.
With the result all but set in stone, the second half didn’t offer much to write home about. Inter held a heavy edge in possession but tallied a mere two shots. Roma had four attempts but failed to create anything of substance except for a late Zaniolo blast from distance into the top corner that tricked everyone from fans in the stadium to the TV announcers to yours truly that the Italian had gotten some revenge on his former club. Luckily for Inter, the ball was on the wrong side of the post and the clean sheet lived to fight another day.
Momento televisivo del año. pic.twitter.com/j9vNsCvIUH— Toribio Tomé (@toribiotome) December 4, 2021
Handanovic - 6.5: Didn’t have much to do but was a steady presence when he was called on. Came out of his area well to claim a loose Skriniar back pass with Zaniolo bearing down on him.
Bastoni - 8: A stellar game from Bastoni. Assisted Dumfries with one of the best crosses you’ll see across Europe this weekend, had 11 accurate long balls, made 3 clearances, and a 93% passing rate.
Skriniar - 7.5: Had one shaky moment with his wayward back pass but was rock solid otherwise. Made two clearances, had three interceptions, and a 98% passing accuracy.
D’Ambrosio - 7.5: A bit of a surprise to see him get the nod over Dimarco but Inzaghi’s trust in the veteran was more than paid back. D’Ambrosio didn’t have much to do defensively against Matias Vina, so he was afforded more license on the ball. Notched the second-most touches on Inter (120), had a passing rate of 96%, and found the target on 7 long balls.
Perisic - 6.5: A relatively quiet but still effective outing from the Croatian. Made a last-ditch tackle on Zaniolo in the box that threw the Roma attacker of his stride just before he could get his shot off. Perisic’s offensive impact was a bit milder. He went one for five on cross attempts and lost possession a team-high 14 times.
Calhanoglu - 8.5 (Man of the Match): The ex-Milan player just keeps getting better and better. Created both of Inter’s first two goals almost single-handily and was a constant presence in the midfield, completing 5/6 long balls, winning three duels, and notching a passing accuracy of 93%.
Brozovic - 8: If this wasn’t enough to convince Inter to give Brozovic a lifetime contract and a pen to write whatever number he wants on it, I don’t know what will. He had an astonishing 140 touches, 125 accurate passes, ten out of ten successful long balls, and five duels won.
Barella - 6: Whereas Calhanoglu and Brozovic were very much ‘on’, Barella went through a bit of an off day against Roma. He had just 62 touches and struggled to get much going, though he did win a team-high five duels.
Dumfries - 7.5: One of his best performances yet for Inter, and no doubt his most important. Made a huge block on Veretout to keep Inter’s 2-0 lead alive and made it 3-0 moments later with his first goal in Italy. It was more than deserved after a rough start to life in Inter colors.
Dzeko - 7.5: The curse of the ex struck once again, but this time in Inter’s favor. Dzeko’s goal was an excellent strike to the upper ninety and he was also a constant factor in the build-up play for the Nerazzurri.
Inzaghi - 8: The past ninety minutes were a glowing endorsement of what Inzaghi is trying to accomplish at Inter. Inter had a clear plan and executed it to perfection and Roma’s singularly-focused defensive setup was left helpless. Inzaghi’s surprise decision of starting D’Ambrosio and Correa paid off as well. In short, a perfect evening for the man from Piacenza.
Atalanta’s victory over Napoli means Inter is up to second on 37 points, one short of Milan, while the Partenopei (one point below Inter) and La Dea (three points back) round out the top four. The Nerazzurri is next in action on Tuesday with a visit to Real Madrid. A win would secure first place for Inter but for once, qualification to the next round is already in the bag for the good guys. Inter will return to league play next Sunday when Cagliari visits the San Siro.