After the 6-1 flying demolition of Bologna on Saturday at home by Inter Milan, questions began to arise as to how Simone Inzaghi’s men would follow up such a goal scoring spectacle against a strong Fiorentina team on the road with only a few days’ rest. They passed the test with flying colors. A first half onslaught by Fiorentina to make it 1-0 made the test an even sterner one, but as this team showed away against Verona, one bad half will not define them. The quick second half turnaround, engineered by two rapid fire goals from Matteo Darmian and Edin Dzeko, was capped off with a late Ivan Perisic goal after Fiorentina winger Nico Gonzalez got himself sent off for dissent. Despite the rough start, Inter showed that they have a very strong mentality and continue get results from losing positions when necessary.
Fiorentina manager Vincenzo Italiano made wholesale changes from his side that defeated Genoa 2-1 on the weekend, some forced through injury and others for tactical reasons. In defense, Inter product Marco Benassi started at right back over Alvaro Ordiozola while both central defenders from the weekend, Lucas Martinez Quatra and Igor, made way for Matija Nastasic and Nikola Milenkovic. In the midfield, both Gaetano Castrovilli and Erick Pulgar missed the match through injury and were replaced with Lucas Torreira and Alfred Duncan. Up top, winger Riccardo Sottil replaced Jose Callejon.
Inter made fewer changes from their thrashing of Bologna, only replacing Federico Dimarco, Joaquin Correa, Denzel Dumfries, and Matias Vecino with Ivan Perisic, Dzeko, Darmian, and Hakan Calhanoglu. The idea on the wings was to create a more solid defensive line to counter the aggressive attack of Italiano’s team. In the midfield, Calhanoglu has proven to be Inzaghi’s number one choice alongside Nicolo Barella and Marcelo Brozovic. Correa could not recover from his hip knock in time to feature, but should be ready for Atalanta on the weekend.
FIORENTINA (4-3-3): Dragowski; Benassi, Milenkovic, Nastasic, Biraghi; Bonaventura, Duncan, Torreira; Sottil, Vlahovic, Gonzaléz.
INTER (3-5-2): Handanovic; Skriniar, de Vrij, Bastoni; Darmian, Barella, Brozovic, Calhanoglu, Perisic; Dzeko, Lautaro.
Fiorentina raced out of the gates from the opening whistle, almost immediately overwhelming Inter in their own third. Fiorentina’s first massive chance came with only a minute on the clock as Samir Handanovic made a diving stop at the feet of Gonzalez just in front of the Inter goalmouth after a pass from Dusan Vlahovic. Biraghi then tried to drill home the subsequent clearance from outside the area, but his effort went well wide.
Inter attempted to hit back against the run of play five minutes later, as some pressure from Perisic on Benassi, something that became a pattern as time went on, forced the ball free, but the half chance was put wide by Nicolo Barella. From there, Fiorentina went back on the attack. Just minutes later, Handanovic was forced into arguably his best save of the match, a flying save to keep out a Vlahovic shot that was destined for the top shelf. Piles of action before even hitting 10 minutes.
After another save by Handanovic on a Cristiano Biraghi shot and a wide chance from Duncan, Fiorentina got their breakthrough goal. Gonzalez won a challenge on Milan Skriniar in the air that could have been argued was a foul, leaving the defender on the floor. This drew Stefan de Vrij and Alessandro Bastoni across, leaving room for Gonzalez to cross to Sottil who converted the easy tap in. The goal was deserved, though the particular chance may have been called back by some referees.
Inter finally got their first effort on goal after 29 minutes. A free kick won by Lautaro set up a Calhanoglu chance on the edge of the area, but his shot was saved well by a diving Bartlomiej Dragowski. Beyond a few more half chances for the home side, the first half finally came to a close for Inter, who were played off the pitch in the half and lucky to only be down by a single goal.
From the speed and intensity shown by Fiorentina in the first half, it was apparent that they would eventually have to slow down. That slowdown came just after the second half whistle. It only took six minutes for Inter to find the equalizer. Just as Inzaghi looked ready to bring on Alexis Sanchez and Dumfries for Dzeko and Darmian, the right wingback popped up with a calmly taken goal as he linked up well with Barella who put him in on goal with a pass through traffic. Darmian pushed up and slotted past Dragowski with a shot similar to the ones he scored on last season under Conte. A promising sign for the wingback who is set to be a sizeable contributor again this season.
The touch and finish from Matteo Darmian pic.twitter.com/jXZsRkMBnu— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) September 21, 2021
Inter found their second just three minutes later from a Calhanoglu corner that was met with a towering header from Dzeko that Dragowski had no chance on. That gave Calhanoglu his third assist in five Serie A matches and Dzeko his fourth goal in the same amount of time since joining Inter. Not bad for two guys brought in for next to nothing.
EDIN DZEKO!— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) September 21, 2021
Back to back goals for Inter Milan pic.twitter.com/N0z8SP3Fxo
Inter’s second goal deflated the already tiring Fiorentina offense. The home side attempted to establish their presence in Inter’s defensive third, but could not conjure the same intensity they had in the first half. Inter then set about killing off the match with a third goal. They almost had the dagger on 64 minutes after a ball out of the back from Stefan de Vrij to Calhanoglu triggered a quick break that was nearly ended by Lautaro Martinez after a Barella cross, but the Argentine could not convert.
The final blow did not come from an Inter goal, but from Gonzalez getting himself sent off for dissent towards referee Michael Fabbri. The winger protested that he deserved a foul in a challenge from Alessandro Bastoni and earned a yellow card for his troubles. He then sarcastically applauded the referee for his decision, which is an easy way to get sent off. Without their most threatening attacker on the night and with being a man down, Fiorentina were at the mercy of a barrage of Inter attacks.
Nico Gonzalez asked the referee for a yellow card after a foul on him, then clapped his hands into a red card pic.twitter.com/VoeEMGMvHl— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) September 21, 2021
Eventually, the third goal did come with seven minutes remaining in the match. A very good ball from Marcelo Brozovic found substitute Matias Vecino in space. He linked up with fellow substitute Roberto Gagliardini, who assisted Perisic for the final marker of the match and capping off a very mature and professional second half for Inter.
Handanovic - 8 (MOTM): Without the captain rolling back the years for this performance, it may have been out of reach by the time the second half rolled around. Great vintage performance from him, though we will have to see how many of those he has left in him.
Bastoni- 6: Not the best match on the ball for the young defender, who suffered through the Fiorentina press. However, his defending was decent. Not his at best, but still okay,
de Vrij - 7: There may not be a center forward in the world that can get the best of the Dutchman right now. When the wings were creating chaos for the Inter defense, he was solid in keeping Vlahovic off of his game.
Skriniar - 6: Gonzalez spun him a few times, and on the goal. he managed to get ahold of him for the most part in the second half, though. No matter what is thrown at him, he adapts quickly.
Perisic - 6.5: This guy has an engine that seemingly never stops. His relentless pressing gave Fiorentina issues and his hard work was rewarded on the other side of the ball with a goal. Did lose his man on the Fiorentina goal because of his high pressing, though.
Calhanoglu - 6.5: Quiet in the first half, but such a threat in any dead ball situation. He grew into the match as time went on, though. His set piece prowess created Dzeko’s goal from the corner. He is more valuable to the team than meets the eye.
Brozovic - 6.5: Fiorentina pressed him hard and it neutralized his impact early. He was able to express himself more freely as the home team’s press waned.
Barella - 6.5: He had trouble keeping the ball and progressing it like the rest of the midfield did early, but he popped up with another assist for the first goal. He a goal contribution in every Serie A for Inter match so far. Hard to complain about that.
Darmian - 6.5: Started rough like much of the team did, but redeemed himself with the equalizing goal. Looked a bit out of place at times, though.
Dzeko - 7: Could barely get a sniff of the ball in the first half, but showed his quality in the second. His five goal contributions in the league so far have been very needed.
Lautaro - 6: Did well when he got on the ball in the first half, but could not finish in the second as the match turned in Inter’s favor. He’s going to need to finish those types of chances this season for Inter to be successful in the long run.
Dumfries - 6.5: Picked up right where he left off against Bologna. Got into some great positions. If Hakimi was a bullet train on the right, Dumfries is a freight train.
Vecino - 6.5: Came on in place of Barella as he did against Real Madrid, but this time to much greater effect. Won the ball and ran with it to alleviate pressure at crucial times late on.
Alexis - 6: Good to see the Chilean back. Decent appearance to knock some rust off. He’ll round back into form.
Gagliardini, Dimarco: N/A
Inzaghi - 7.5: His team was outplayed in the first half, but their perseverance and his adjustments made all the difference in the second half. His substitutions were proactive and made a positive impact. Very similar to Verona.
Next up for Inter will be a visit from Atalanta on Saturday. A second tough challenge on the bounce, but one that Inter should be confident and ready for after their start to the Serie A season. In previous years, the best time to face Atalanta has been early in the season, and Inter now have them early.