Inter made it difficult for themselves, but still secured a very important 2-1 victory over an impressive Parma side at the Ennio Tardini overnight. The victory came after Milan scraped a 1-1 draw in their match against Udinese, meaning the Nerazzurri move six points clear of their nearest rivals at the top of Serie A.
Here are a few things we learned from the match.
Even At Their Worst Inter Are Still Dangerous
The first half of this match was a huge drop-off compared to recent performances by Conte’s men. Their passes were sloppy, they forfeited possession and position and Parma were able to carve an excellent chance with Kurtic’s free header. That said, Inter still could’ve gone in ahead. Lukaku missed a great opportunity, Hakimi (probably the only bright performer early on) almost found Eriksen with a cross and Parma made two scrappy clearances from Skriniar and Perisic. While we would all prefer to see dominating performances all the time, it is pleasing that the team still found a path to goal despite their overall play being very poor. Inter sides of seasons past struggled to win ugly, and this will be a key quality for the side on its march to the Scudetto.
Sanchez Steps Up
It must be frustrating to be Alexis Sanchez. As the third striker at Inter, you expect to get plenty of game time as the club should be competing in multiple competitions. Instead, you find your team playing once a week, and in front of you in the pecking order are two strikers with irreplaceable chemistry in the form of their lives. Many players would’ve struggled to accept this role. However, this is where the mental strength that Conte demands from his players becomes too vital. Alexis stood alone as the best performer today, scoring two goals and causing a real nuisance for the Parma defense. His speed may be waning, but his intelligence on the pitch is as important as ever, and delivered three vital points for his side. It won’t be enough to displace Lautaro against Atalanta, but it sets a superb example for the rest of the squad who currently find themselves outside of the first eleven.
Eriksen vs Vidal
Inter seemed in full control when Conte first looked to his bench. I thought Vidal would replace one of the two midfielders currently on yellow cards, but instead, he went on for the Dane. It was an interesting decision by Conte who (I assume) was looking for Vidal to help the side see out the game and perhaps add some defensive solidity. Maybe he wanted him to get some minutes in his legs before the Atalanta match. Either way, the team certainly looked worse off with him on there. Eriksen has no assist nor goals from open play, but (like Sanchez) his intelligence is vital to the teams performance. He knows how to control the tempo, and take up positions to begin attacking moves. His ability to pick up a loose ball and immediately release Lukaku into space led to the second goal today and makes Inter are a constant threat on the counter. Vidal, unfortunately, struggled to get into the match and will not have improved his chances of returning to the starting eleven any time soon.
Lukaku The Creator
I thought Lukaku was particularly poor in the first half of the match and the side was struggling without their star man. Devoid of chances early, when the opportunity came for him to run at the Parma defense and he moved the ball to his left foot, he would’ve been forgiven for going for goal himself. However, his simple ball to Alexis left the Chilean with a simple finish to double Inter’s lead.
It was another example of just how much Lukaku’s game has improved this season. The goals are his most obvious asset, but the pass for Alexis was the Belgians eighth assist of the season. This puts him top of the assist leaderboard alongside renowned creators Hakan Calhanoglu and Henrikh Mkhitaryan. He has 26 goal contributions in only 24 matches! While obviously not Messi/Ronaldo levels, these performances are something truly impressive from a man who originally arrived at the club under a cloud of doubt. Inter fans are getting used to it, but we should take a second to realize just how special Big Rom has been this season and how lucky we are to be witnessing a player like this at the peak of his powers.
How Did Our Rivals Do?
I referenced other results after the Genoa game so I hesitate to repeat myself, but Milan's 1-1 draw with Udinese has a huge bearing on Inter too. The six-point gap means that, with 13 matches to go, Inter can lose two more than their rivals and still win the Scudetto. It’s not in the bag by any stretch, but the Nerazzurri are now in a commanding position.
There were some suggestions that Conte should look to rest some players before the Atalanta match, but the manager seems intent on placing equal importance on every fixture. This is justified as, cliched as it sounds, they’re all worth three points. This win would also have had a psychological effect on our opponents, particularly after a first half in which we struggled. This week alone, Inter have gained two and three points on Milan and Juve respectively but defeating teams in the bottom half of the table.
Furthermore, there are three tasty fixtures coming up. Inter welcome Atalanta which will be an incredibly tough challenge. Luckily, Juve faces Lazio and Milan visit Verona. All three teams will have to lift their game to claim the three points this week. Inter have the benefit of playing last and could well step onto the hallowed San Siro knowing a win could move them nine points clear. Perhaps then it will be time to clear the stage for the fat lady’s performance.
Let us know what you think about the above in the comments below!