Fresh off an emotionally and physically draining Supercoppa victory over Juventus, Inter was hurled back into Serie A play with a visit to Atalanta. Two of the three best attacks in Serie A came face to face in a pulsating and back-and-forth *scoreless* draw. Yep, there was not one goal to be found at the Gewiss despite boatloads of chances and occasionally optional defending. Luckily Samir Handanovic was there to save the day from an Inter perspective, while Juan Musso and Edin Dzeko’s disastrous finishing kept Atalanta’s clean sheet intact. All in all, it’s hard to be too upset at a draw with the fourth-best team in Italy but Inter’s lack of a finishing touch in the final third left a sour taste in the mouth of Interisti. But just as easily as Sunday could have gone a lot better from an Inter perspective, it could have been a great deal worse without Handanovic’s five-star showing.
Simone Inzaghi rewarded Alexis Sanchez for his game-winner against Juventus with the start in Bergamo, while Danilo D’Ambrosio was a surprise inclusion in the backline instead of Stefan de Vrij. Matteo Darmian regained his starting spot from Denzel Dumfries, but it was an otherwise first-choice XI for the good guys. As for Atalanta, Gian Piero Gasperini replaced the injured duo of Duvan Zapata and Robin Gosens with the still-formidable pair of Luis Muriel and Guiseppe Pezzella. Ruslan Malinovksyi and Josep Ilicic, rumored starters, weren’t even on the bench after suspected COVID-19 cases.
The Nerazzurri derby got off to an inauspicious start, with Inter holding the majority of possession but failing to make much of anything happen. In fact, Atalanta’s high press kept the visitors penned into its own half, allowing La Dea to be the far more offensively active side. Luckily for Inter, Atalanta failed to convert any of its multitude of half-chances into a concrete look on Samir Handanovic’s goal. Inter’s first real opportunity came in the 26th minute when Sanchez was slipped in behind the backline and let loose a rocket to the upper corner. Juan Musso somehow got an outstretched paw on it, but a potential goal likely would have been ruled out for a foul on Muriel in the build-up anyway. Nonetheless, it was a relief to see Inter make its presence felt in the final third after thirty minutes of doldrums. The Nerazzurri improved as the half wore on but it was still far from a good performance going into the interval. Inter boasted 64% possession but the shot tally read 4-3 in Atalanta’s favor. The two sides had one shot on target each, with clear chances few and far between.
Atalanta had a golden opportunity to net the opener just four minutes after the interval. La Dea sliced through Inter’s backline all too easily after a Brozovic giveaway but Matteo Pesssina’s point-blank effort was denied by a Handanovic wonder save. Inter began to create more chances as the half wore on, with Atalanta’s press causing fewer problems. A sliding Darmian was inches away from poking a Dzeko cross home in the 66th minute but Pezzella’s last-ditch tackle put off the 32-year-old. Five minutes later Denzel Dumfries redirected a cross across the goalmouth where Dzeko somehow managed to blast a point-blank header into the stands. The game began to open up in the final stages and Atalanta had the next flurry of chances. Mario Pasalic’s close-range header was deflected narrowly wide by the back of an unassuming Dumfries in the 79th minute. Handanovic was called into action moments later, making a confident diving save on a one-v-one with Muriel. The Slovenian was given no time to rest, however, with Pasalic forcing the veteran into a double save in the 88th minute. Inter would have the last say, as D’Ambrosio snuck free in the box and sent Musso sprawling to keep out his close-range effort. That was the end of things, though, and despite 22 combined shots, the scoreline read nil-nil at full-time.
Handanovic - 8 (Man of the Match): Made two super saves on Pessina and Muriel to keep Inter from falling to a second league defeat of the season. Tallied six total saves, the majority of which were by no means straightforward and was the only thing keeping Inter in the game at times.
Bastoni - 7: Struggled to contain Muriel at times but was his usual self on the ball. Had the second-most touches on Inter (90), 6 accurate long balls, six duels won, 1 clearance, and 1 interception.
Skriniar - 7: A beast defensively, keeping Atalanta under lock and key whenever they dared to venture into his zone. Won 3 duels, made 2 clearances, 2 interceptions, and 2 clearances.
D’Ambrosio - 7: Did quite well in a rare start. Won 9 duels, made 5 tackles, 2 clearances, and 1 blocked shot. de Vrij is still the first choice without question but it’s good to have a backup as reliable as D’Ambrosio when needed.
Perisic - 6.5: Pressed into action on the defensive side of things, making 4 interceptions, 2 clearances, and one tackle. A bit more inconsistent on the ball, making five accurate long balls but committing a team-high 17 giveaways.
Calhanoglu - 5.5: Had a few dangerous passes in the final third but a combination of iffy set-pieces and a tendency to drift to the periphery meant this was far from Calhanoglu’s best. Made just 48 touches and went 0/4 on crosses before an early exit in favor of Vidal.
Brozovic - 6: Struggled with Atalanta’s press and almost cost Inter a goal with his giveaway early in the second half. Still managed to be a key figure in Inter’s build-up, with a team-high 95 touches, 4 key passes, and 5 accurate long balls. But Brozovic’s off night was most clearly defined by a mere 87% passing accuracy and 14 giveaways.
Barella - 6: A constant presence in the center of the park, if not an always successful one. Had the fourth-most touches on the team, 3 key passes, and 3 accurate long balls, but a passing rate of just 86% and 16 giveaways.
Darmian - 6: A hardworking if ultimately fruitless evening from Darmian. Won 5 duels and had two tackles but completed just 83% of his passes and missed his only look on goal.
Dzeko - 4: Hard to find any positives from the Bosnian’s outing. Missed a trio of quality headers, wasn’t very mobile or speedy enough to trouble Atalanta’s backline, and was constantly wasteful in possession, leading Inter with 17 giveaways. Let’s hope he’s still recovering from COVID and will be back to his best soon.
Sanchez - 5.5: The Chilean used up all of his magic against Juve and was almost completely anonymous Sunday. Notched a mere 30 touches, zero key passes, just one shot, and a 75% passing accuracy in an hour of action.
Inzaghi - 6: Went bold from the beginning by starting Dzeko and Sanchez together and as you might suspect from the previous two ratings it didn’t pay off. Also seemed to wait too long to change things up but perhaps Lautaro is nursing an injury or isn’t at 100%. To cut Inzaghi some slack, it’s hard to find a balance between rotation and putting the best XI on the pitch when you have a week against as many top opponents as Inter did.
Inter moves to 50 points, just two ahead of Milan who plays Spezia Monday evening. Napoli could also close to within four points should it beat Bologna tomorrow. The Nerazzurri will be back in action Wednesday against Empoli in the Coppa Italia before hosting Venezia Saturday in the last match before another dreaded international break, at the end of which awaits the derby della Madonnina.