While the main attraction on the San Siro pitch was the celebration of Inter’s nineteenth Scudetto, the ninety minutes leading up to the Nerazzurri’s first trophy lift in a decade didn’t disappoint. Inter put five past Udinese to close out a 2020/21 season we won’t forget anytime soon with a resounding 5-1 victory in front of 1,000 fans filling the San Siro stands.
Antonio Conte made seven changes from the team in last weekend’s Derby d’Italia with Handanovic, Bastoni, Hakimi, and Lautaro the only survivors. Pinamonti got his first start of the season while Ranocchia, D’Ambrosio, and Young all played possibly their last match in an Inter kit thanks to contracts expiring this summer. The midfield consisted of the new-look combination of Gagliardini-Sensi-Vecino, given that Darmian and Brozovic were suspended.
Both Inter and Handanovic notched significant milestones Sunday. Inter played its 3,000th Serie A match while the latter broke Walter Zenga’s all-time appearance record, taking the pitch for the 329th time as a member of the Nerazzurri.
The party didn’t waste any time starting and Ashley Young opened the scoring eight minutes in. The Englishman reacted first to a loose ball and buried the rebound, though it came at the price of being bulldozed by Juan Muss who came speeding out of his goal a second too late.
The pace of the game slowly markedly as the half wore on, as games late in May without any consequences tend to. But despite the end of season festivities, things took a spicy turn at the half-hour mark. The melee began when Rodrigo Becao gave Lautaro a nudge into the advertising boards after the play. The Argentine understandably wasn’t pleased and Lukaku had to restrain his strike partner from further fracas. Lautaro couldn’t be stopped, however, and he returned the Brazilian defender’s favor with a late, studs-up challenge that earned him a yellow.
Luckily the flash-point didn’t develop further and Inter was able to double its lead on the stroke of halftime. Christian Eriksen, who had entered for the injured Sensi, showcased his impressive free-kick skill one again, albeit with the help of a slight deflection off the Udinese wall. The Dane left Musso at a standstill from twenty yards out.
The first half was a rather low-key affair without much final third action. Udinese had a slight edge in possession (54%) but only three shots, none of which tested Handanovic’s goal. Inter, on the other hand, scored both times it found the target but didn’t look dangerous for long stretches.
Like against Sampdoria, Inter made another halftime goalkeeping change. This time it was Daniele Padelli coming on for Handanovic now that the Slovenian had Inter’s all-time appearance record to his name alone. Padelli also is rumored to be heading toward the exit this summer, with Udinese listed as a possible destination.
Eriksen’s goal gave Inter the boost it needed to go up a gear in attack and the Nerazzurri had Udinese on the ropes in the opening stages of the second half. It’s pressure was soon rewarded when Zeegelaar took down Hakimi in the box for a penalty after the Moroccan left his Dutch counterpart in the dust on the dribble. Lautaro calmly slotted the spot kick home for his 17th of the season in the 54th minute.
Even with a three-goal cushion, Inter was far from ready to hang up its boots. The Nerazzurri added a fourth in the 64th minute via a sublime strike from Ivan Perisic, who had only entered the fray seven minutes prior.
Romelu Lukaku completed Inter’s quintuple in rather remarkable fashion in the 71st minute. He whiffed a cross from Vecino but Sanchez picked up the loose ball and sent a chip shot off the crossbar. The rebound bounced off the chest of an unsuspecting Lukaku and in. A clear goal of the season candidate, right? Right??
Romelu Lukaku doesn't even need to shoot to score pic.twitter.com/RzjeOslVdw— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) May 23, 2021
A slight rain appeared on Inter’s parade when Udinese pulled one back via Roberto Pereyra from the penalty spot in the 78th minute after an Eriksen handball. The party atmosphere only grew, however, as the trophy ceremony grew closer and closer.
Handanovic - 6: Broke Walter Zenga’s Inter appearance record with a very uneventful first half. Had no saves to make and was successful on 15 of his 17 passes.
Bastoni - 7: Another superb display from Inter’s young defender. Made several excellent defensive plays, including a clearance off the line and a perfectly timed tackle on De Paul to stop a counter. Was 7/7 on long balls, made 4 clearances, 3 interceptions, and led Inter in touches (71).
Ranocchia - 7: He may be 33 but Ranocchia showed no signs of tiring against Udinese. Cleaned up several attacks with his experience, had a passing rate of 94%, and made 2 clearances.
D’Ambrosio - 6.5: A fairly uneventful afternoon for the Italian but he put in a solid performance when called upon. Had a passing accuracy of 94%, made 2 clearances, blocked one shot, and had one interception.
Young - 7: Put his body on the line to score the opener, had 2 key passes, and 2 long balls. If Young isn’t in Inter colors next season, this was a fitting send-off.
Gagliardini - 6: Drew the foul that led to Eriksen’s freekick, was second in touches (59), and won seven duels. Wasn’t particularly impressive on the ball, however. Pretty much your standard Gagliardini game.
Sensi - 6: Sensi’s name is practically already printed on the injury report. And just as he was regaining his fitness ahead of the Euros, the 25-year-old went down with yet another knock late in the first half against Udinese. It wouldn’t surprise anyone if Sensi was one of the first out the door this summer.
Vecino - 6.5: Vecino had only the 7th most touches on Inter, a low tally for a midfielder. He made his time with the ball count, however, notching 3 key passes including the assist on Perisic’s goal.
Hakimi - 7: The Moroccan was one of Inter’s biggest threats, drawing a penalty on an excellent run and putting his speed to good use against Udinese’s backline.
Achraf Hakimi makes it clear. He wants to stay at Inter - despite rumours about Bayern and Arsenal, he’s not planning to leave the club this summer. #Hakimi #transfers [ @dazn_it] pic.twitter.com/gSN6D9VlF9— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) May 23, 2021
Lautaro - 7: With Lukaku on the bench, Lautaro was able to take over Inter’s attack. Assisted Young’s goal and unlike last season, had no troubles from the penalty spot. Lautaro also won 9 duels, had 2 key passes, and three successful dribbles. The only blemish for his afternoon is that he’ll be suspended for the first game of 2021/22 on yellow card accumulation.
Pinamonti - 6: Largely a non-factor in his first start of the season. Had the fewest touches of any outfield starter (17) and no shots as Pinamonti struggled to get the better of Udinese’s physical backline.
Eriksen - 7: The Dane added another free kick goal to his stats sheet with a superb finish. Also had 3 successful long balls and one key pass, though he couldn’t get in on the action consistently.
Padelli - 5.5: Not his best game but understandable given that he hasn’t played in over a year. The effects of rust were obvious as he didn’t look confident coming off his line and had to get bailed out by the defense on several occasions.
Prediction League Final Standings
With the final match of the 2020/21 season behind us, the first edition of the Serpents of Madonnina Prediction League is in the history books. Congratulations to LivingTheHugLife for winning the Prediction League title! With 133 points, LivingTheHugLife was 13 points clear of second and in first for a lengthy stretch. Khalid_1912, Vin87, and Andres.asdf rounded out the top four.
Thank you to everyone who participated! The Prediction League will resume in August with the start of the 2021/22 Serie A season.