If it’s not broke, don’t fix it; Antonio Conte did just that, rolling out an identical team to the one that beat Lazio and Milan in the past weeks. The only exception was Mateo Darmian in place of the suspended Achraf Hakimi, while Christian Eriksen kept his starting spot over Arturo Vidal and Roberto Gagliardini. Genoa took a different approach, with Davide Ballardini making six changes from the team that drew 2-2 at Hellas Verona last week with an eye on the city derby against Sampdoria on Wednesday. Top scorer Mattia Destro and former Inter player Goran Pandev were on the bench, in place of a very youthful starting eleven.
Based on his current form, it seemed like a Romelu Lukaku goal was inevitable against Genoa. But few would have expected it to come a mere thirty seconds in. Lukaku, though, surpassed our expectations once again. Rafael Leao’s 7th-second goal against Sassuolo still holds the record for the fastest (and probably will for a long, long time), Lukaku’s achievement is remarkable just the same.
Lukaku fires Inter Milan ahead after 34 seconds pic.twitter.com/6YbB5Z0Hmj— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) February 28, 2021
The Nerazzurri continued to cause Genoa problems and constantly threatened Mattia Perin’s goal. Nicolo Barella sent a curling long-range effort pinging off the crossbar in the 17th minute, followed by a flurry of half-chances from Inter. Genoa, though, was almost gifted an equalizer in the 31st minute. Samir Handanovic came flying out of his goal to meet a corner but ended up dropping the ball at the feet of Gianluca Scamacca. The veteran was able to atone for his error and blocked away Scamacca’s effort.
Inter found itself entering halftime with a one-goal lead, despite outshooting Genoa 12 to 3 and putting 5 shots on target. The Nerazzurri could/should have been up by multiple goals but thanks to Perin’s goalkeeping and misfiring finishing Inter had no room for error despite dominating the half and carving the visitors apart time and time again.
The Nerazzurri dropped off in the second half and Genoa was able to see more and more of the ball. Genoa even brought Goran Pandev off the bench, and with a different Inter side, you could have easily seen the Macedonian netting a brace. This time, however, the Nerazzurri managed to double its lead and create some much-needed breathing room before Genoa was able to wreak havoc on Inter. Darmian netted his first Serie A goal for Inter in the 69th minute with the first shot on target of the half.
Inter 2-0 Genoa (Matteo Darmian) Romelu Lukaku assist pic.twitter.com/CW1j8ve8HF— ClipsInterGoals (@ClipsGoals) February 28, 2021
With victory almost certainly secured, Inter refound its first-half form and started charge after charge at the Genoa goal. It didn’t take long for Inter to notch a third thanks to Alexis Sanchez’s first touch on the pitch minutes after entering as a sub. The goal was originally ruled offside, but after a slight VAR delay, it was rightly awarded to the Chilean in the 77th minute.
Inter 3-0 Genoa (Alexis Sanchez) pic.twitter.com/AcwTwcCfgE— ClipsInterGoals (@ClipsGoals) February 28, 2021
Inter didn’t stop there and went on the hunt for a fourth. Danilo D’Ambrosio came closest with a spectacular curling effort from the top of the box was barely tipped away from nestling in the upper ninety by Perin. The 28-year-old wasn’t done standing on his head just yet, making several more saves to preserve Genoa’s dignity until the referee mercifully blew the final whistle.
Genoa’s seven-game unbeaten run comes to a crashing halt while Inter continues to pick up steam. The Nerazzurri have won its last five league outings, scoring three goals in each of the previous three games. And though incredible individual performances are playing a big part in Inter’s red-hot form, the team as a whole has the strength to pick up results and control games. In the last seven games, Inter has scored 17 and conceded only once, enough for the third-best attack in Europe’s Big Five leagues and the second-best defense in Serie A. Conte has crafted this club to have fit his vision and the results can be seen by all. He might be underpaid after all...
Genoa was a perfect example of those scoring statistics in action. Even when Inter was on the back foot in the second half, Genoa couldn’t threaten. Despite holding 51% of the ball, ended the second period with zero shots and only five touches in the Nerazzurri’s box (Inter had almost 50 in the opposite end). Ballardini’s side totaled 0.10 expected goals across ninety minutes compared to 2.56xg for Inter. And though Perin put on a masterclass (10 saves!), Inter’s attack eventually overpowered the Grifone backline to put the game to bed.
Handanovic - 6.5: Faced only two shots the whole match and took care of both of them. Almost found himself in no man’s land when he bobbled the corner in the first half but made up for his error before it became a serious issue.
Bastoni - 7: Though he didn’t have much defensive work to do, Bastoni’s ball-playing skills were on full display. He completed 5/5 long balls, 1 key pass, and a 91% overall passing accuracy.
de Vrij - 7: As usual, the rock in Inter’s backline. Four successful long balls, a 93% passing rate, and five duels won (three aerial duels).
Skriniar - 7: Another spot-less showing from the Slovenian. Made four clearances, four long balls, and 89% of his total passes.
Perisic - 6.5: Another quality performance from Inter’s now first choice LWB. Not quite as dangerous as he was versus Milan, but a reliable option at both ends of the pitch. Won three duels and had one key pass as well.
Eriksen - 7: Though he wasn’t able to find the same creative spark of recent games, Eriksen still had a solid shift to his name. Provided several dangerous set-piece services, 3 key passes, and a 92% passing accuracy.
Brozovic - 7: Wasn’t able to dictate the game to a full extent, but still a significant presence on the San Siro pitch. Had a passing accuracy of 92%, 5 duels won, and 7 successful long balls (a team-high). Him and Eriksen being able to coexist so smoothly has been one of the surprises of the season.
Barella - 8: Lights out display from perhaps Inter’s future captain. He played the through ball that sprung Lukaku’s opener and crafted seven total scoring chances. Also had 3 successful long balls and six duels won.
Darmian - 7.5: Filled in well for Hakimi, and even provided the same goal threat the Morrocan does. Was excellent on the ball, completing 93% of his passes and losing possession only three times. He also made three clearances and four tackles, winning 8 duels.
Lautaro - 7: Despite not finding a goal, he played a pivotal role in the victory a few days after declaring his future is in Milan. Assisted Lukaku on the opener, made 3 key passes and notched two interceptions.
Lukaku - 8.5: Another superb outing from the Belgian. His driving run and powerful finish, similar to the third goal against Milan, got the ball rolling and he then assisted Darmian’s crucial second, plus four key passes.
Inter has a rare midweek fixture next, away to struggling Parma. Thanks to Verona’s 1-1 draw with Juventus, Inter is now ten points clear of the Old Lady (who has a game in hand) and seven ahead of Milan (though that could drop to four depending on the Rossoneri's evening clash with Roma).
See you Thursday.