The warning signs were there two weeks ago at the Marcantonio Bentegodi. Heroics from Joaquin Correa managed to rescue the three points but the performance was very much lacking against Hellas Verona. And sooner or later, individual moments of magic weren’t going to cut it. As Inter’s 2-2 draw with Sampdoria showed, it turned out to be sooner. Taking just a point from the Blucerchiati is far from disaster - after all, Inter lost this fixture last year! - but there are worrying signs to take away from the early game on Sunday. Gone was the defensive stability that defined last season and the team in white failed to show much identity of any sort. There was no consistent plan to create chances against a stout Sampdoria backline and the midfield was overrun all too often, exposing a flimsy Nerazzurri defense. But the good news? This is all fixable. Inzaghi has been in charge for a mere three games. It’s going to take a while for his style to become natural to a team used to the rigors of Antonio Conte. But the man from Piacenza is going to have to learn on the job.
Inzaghi made just one change from the team that beat Hellas Verona 3-1 two weeks ago. Federico Dimarco slotted into the back three in place of the injured Alessandro Bastoni. Sampdoria lined up in Roberto D’Aversa’s favored 4-4-2/4-2-3-1, with new signing Francesco Caputo playing off Fabio Quagliarella to form an attacking duo with a combined age of 72. Ex-Inter man Antonio Candreva got the start at right-wing, flanked by Denmark starlet Mikkel Damsgaard on the opposite flank.
The hosts showed initiative right out of the gate and kept Inter from finding its footing throughout the opening exchanges. The Blucerchiati only had one chance to show for, however, when Morten Thorsby put a point-blank header over the bar. Inter started to dominate possession by the 15th minute and the pressure paid off when Lautaro managed to win a freekick just outside the box. Dimarco took kicking duties and, well, you have to see it to believe it.
Even with the advantage, Inter couldn’t take the game by the scruff of its neck and Sampdoria remained very much in the mix. Though the hosts didn’t put much pressure on Inter’s goal either, it only had to wait fifteen minutes for an equalizer. The ball careened throughout the box off a corner before Maya Yoshida sent a volley goal-wards that took a major deflection off Edin Dzeko and trickled over the line.
Though the level scoreline was fair all things considered, the visitors were far from content. Inter regained its lead with time running out on the first half. Hakan Calhanoglu picked Damsgaard’s pocket in midfield and laid the ball off to Barella, who embarked on a driving run across half of the pitch. He capped it off with a pin-point cross to Lautaro, who buried a volley with fantastic technique.
Neither side could take control of the half and action bounced back and forth. Sampdoria had a slight edge in possession (52%) and both teams notched five shots, though Inter had three on target compared to Sampdoria’s one.
The story from the first half repeated as Sampdoria took just two minutes to find its second of the day. Tomasso Augello met a Bartosz Bereszyński cross at the back post and blasted a volley into the roof of the net. Inter almost responded immediately and had a flurry of chances to regain the lead. Perisic was played in behind but rather than pass to a wide-open Dzeko, he unsuccessfully tried to go for goal from a tight angle in the 51st minute. Lautaro was the next to have a look on target when Barella chipped a pass over Sampdoria’s backline to the Argentine, but a defender managed to get a last-ditch touch on the ball. Calhanoglu rounded out Inter’s trio of golden opportunities in the 55th minute. He was given time and space to take a shot from the top of the box but pulled a fizzing effort inches wide of the post, leaving Emil Audero helpless.
Inzaghi brought on Vidal, Correa, Sensi, Dumfries, and D’Ambrosio to aid Inter’s search of a winner, but to no avail. Instead, Sampdoria had the best chance of the final thirty minutes when a Damsgaard effort was cleared off the line by D’Ambrosio. The game opened up but neither side could make the other pay for leaving gaps in defense. Stefano Sensi’s injury added to Inter’s concerns and forced the visitors to play down a man for the last quarter of an hour.
By the time the final whistle arrived, Sampdoria had 52% possession and outshot Inter 14-8 with three on target each. The hosts tallied 1.47 expected goals compared to just 0.97 xg to Inter. With the exception of the trio of chances at the start of the second half, Inter failed to create much from open play. The Nerazzurri never had control of the middle third and the lack of a solid foundation limited its effectiveness across the pitch.
Handanovic - 5.5: Couldn’t do much on either Sampdoria goal but didn’t inspire confidence with his general body language. Almost managed to bungle a Candreva cross into his own net as well.
Dimarco - 7: Finally showed off his much-talked-about set-piece ability in an Inter kit but wasn’t a natural fit at center back. He committed the giveaway that led to Thorsby’s fourth-minute header and lost possession 13 times, the second-most on Inter. Hopefully, the calf injury that forced him out is nothing serious because though Dimarco wasn’t great, Kolarov against Real Madrid would be even scarier.
de Vrij - 7: His usual dominant self at the heart of Inter’s backline. The Dutchman notched 3 clearances, 1 interception, 1 block, and won 3 duels.
Skriniar - 7: Made four clearances and blocked three shots. He and de Vrij did admirably keeping Sampdoria’s strike force of Quagliarella and Caputo quiet for ninety minutes.
Perisic - 5.5: The Croatian continued his poor form to start the season. He made next to no impact, losing possession a team-high 16 times and completing a mere 45% of his passes. Perisic also scuffed one of Inter’s best chances of the game when he opted to shoot from a tight angle rather than make an easy pass to Dzeko. It might be time for Inzaghi to reshuffle Inter’s wingback corps with Dimarco and Dumfries, moving Darmian to center back.
Calhanoglu - 6: Hakan has been getting progressively worse since his red-hot debut against Genoa (and we can’t say Milan fans didn’t warn us). He had only 37 touches Sunday, lost possession 11 times, had no key passes, and put both of his shots off target. Calhanoglu did pick Damsgaard’s pocket in midfield to spark Lautaro’s goal but overall he was rather subdued.
Brozovic - 5.5: Far from a vintage Brozovic performance. He picked up a yellow for a late tackle on Candreva in midfield and was sloppy in possession. Completed just 82% of his passes and had 28 touches before an early substitution.
Barella - 7: The sole bright spot in the midfield. He had a superb assist on Lautaro’s goal, tallied the most touches on Inter, won 6 duels, and made 4 successful long balls and 2 key passes.
Darmian - 6: It’s time for Dumfries to get a start. While Darmian wasn’t necessarily bad against Sampdoria, he was also far from good. He lost his man on the second Samp goal and was unproductive in the final third, with just 33 touches in 90 minutes.
Dzeko - 6: Dzeko’s quietest game yet in an Inter kit. Sampdoria’s goal that took a major deflection was pure luck but the Bosnian was all but invisible in the final third. He made just one key pass and took no shots despite playing the full ninety. Inter’s going to need a lot more from the veteran in the coming weeks.
Lautaro - 7: The Argentine was Inter’s most active attacker. He drew foul for Dimarco’s freekick and scored with a textbook finish on the volley. His early substitution hopefully means he’ll be 100% for Madrid in three days.
Inzaghi - 6.5: The Mister was proactive with his subs when Sampdoria equalized for a second time, though admittedly not to great effect. There’s no way he could have foreseen Sensi’s injury (except, well, that he’s Sensi) but playing down a man took all of the wind out of Inter’s sails. The real test for him is in the next few weeks as he attempts to rotate all while keeping Inter competitive on all fronts.
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