Venezia’s resistance should never have lasted that long, but ultimately Inter closed the curtains on January in expected fashion. The Nerazzurri were moments away from stumbling to a home draw against the relegation candidates before Edin Dzeko saved the day with a pin-point header in the 90th minute. It was far from the 4-0, 5-0 wins that we had gotten used to against weaker opposition but instead continued the recent pattern of last-minute winners.
Inter looked out of sorts from minute one and struggled to get much of anything going in the final third, despite totaling an absurd 24 shots, 12 of which were on target. Pure probability meant the good guys would eventually put one in and in the Pazza Inter way we all know and love, Dzeko sent San Siro into raptures on the stroke of ninety minutes. And breathe.
Inter rolled out its full first choice IX, with the only real surprise coming in Matteo Darmian’s inclusion over Denzel Dumfries. Venezia, however, was forced to make wholesale changes after a COVID-19 outbreak ravaged their roster. Gone was Paolo Zanetti’s (who wasn’t on the sideline after testing positive midweek) favored 4-3-2-1 in favor of an ultra-defensive 5-3-2, led by Thomas Henry and David Okereke upfront.
Inter dominated possession from the word go but lacked the type of decisive passes that would open up Venezia’s bunker. The Arancioneroverdi flipped the script and drew first blood with one of its first ventures into Inter’s half in the 19th minute. Thomas Henry headed an Ethan Ampadu cross past Handanovic and silenced the San Siro.
Ethan Ampadu puts it on a plate and Thomas Henry eats.— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) January 22, 2022
VENEZIA TAKE THE LEAD IN MILAN. pic.twitter.com/s9wrHPXPEH
Despite falling behind, the Nerazzurri failed to wake up from its slumber and continued to resemble headless chickens in the final third. Inter’s main offensive tactics revolved around shots from distance with only vague chances of finding the target, let alone beating Luca Lezzerini in goal. Inter’s consistent if unsuccessful pressure eventually paid off in the 40th minute and the good guys brought itself level via Nicolo Barella. A Darmian cross was volleyed home by Perisic and Barella pounced on the rebound from close range.
Nicolò Barella reacts the quickest and Inter Milan are right back in it. ⚫️ pic.twitter.com/fAknmK1wNA— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) January 22, 2022
The half ended with a one-all scoreline, though the stats sheet couldn’t have been less one-sided. Inter boasted 72% possession and 13 shots (5 on target) compared to just two attempts from the visitors. Inter’s sloppiness and wayward efforts in the final third contributed to a rather unwatchable first forty-five minutes, but Barella’s equalizer put the Nerazzurri on the front foot going into the interval.
Inzaghi brought on Federico Dimarco to start the second half, taking the yellow-carded Bastoni off. Inter continued to dictate possession but failed to consistently break down Venezia’s parked bus. The first clear chance of the half came in the 57th minute. Lezzerini spilled a de Vrij header onto the doorstep but Dzeko somehow put it over from mere yards out. The Nerazzurri crafted a handful of half-chences as the half wore on, but it appeared like Inter and Dzeko would come to regret that miss. Luckily the Bosnian had other ideas. With Inter’s situation looking more and more hopeless, Inzaghi brought on the likes of Dumfries, Vidal, and Sanchez to add another dimension to Inter’s attack. In the 90th minute, a Dumfries cross met the towering head of Dzeko in the box and this time the striker made no mistake.
EDIN DZEKO IN THE 90TH MINUTE pic.twitter.com/p8mG7ihT8e— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) January 22, 2022
The Nerazzurri almost made it 3-1 in stoppage time with Vidal in a one-v-one with Lezzerini, but once more the keeper came up big. And that was that. Despite a rocky performance, Inter tallied yet another win and retained its status as league leaders going into February.
Handanovic - 6: Henry’s header was to the center of the goal but the pace and power on it meant Handanovic would have had to pull a trick out of his sleeve to keep it out. Made quality saves on Venezia’s other two shots but was fairly removed from the action overall.
Bastoni - 6: Had the second-most touches on Inter in the first half and made 2 key passes but looked a bit off before a halftime exit in favor of Dimarco. Also picked up a yellow, which likely had a lot to do with his early substitution.
de Vrij - 6: Fairly uneventful evening from the Dutchman. Had a 96% passing accuracy, made two tackles, and won five duels.
Skriniar - 6: Lost track of Henry on Venezia’s goal but improved as the match wore on, ending the day with 6 duels won and four accurate long balls.
Perisic - 6.5: A constant threat down the flank, leading Inter with 3 key passes, 6 crosses, and 5 duels won.
Calhanoglu - 7.5 (Man of the Match): A superb performance from the ex-Milan man. It’s worth noting that Inzaghi took Brozovic and Barella off when Inter was in search of a goal but kept Calhanoglu on. For good reason, as well. Hakan led Inter in touches (110), made 3 key paasses, completed 4 long balls, and won 6 duels.
Brozovic - 6.5: Not quite at the normal level we’re used to seeing from Brozovic. Still was the focus of Inter’s midfield, with a 96% passing accuracy, the most completed passes on the team, and 7 accurate long balls.
Barella - 7: Got his first goal since September and was a wrecking ball in the center of the park, winning four duels, making two key passes, and five crosses.
Darmian - 6: A decidedly average outing from the veteran. Made just 22 passes from 39 touches and failed to make a dent in the final third. Considering how good Dumfries has been recently, it’s likely time for the Dutchman to take the starting reins full time over Darmian.
Dzeko - 6: Finally broke a six-game scoreless drought dating back to December 4th with an aptly timed gamewinner, but the Bosnian is still far from his best. Missed a scattering of chances, including one from mere yards out. He continues to play a role in the build-up play even if his finishing boots are missing, but age is definitely catching up to Dzeko. Hopefully Marotta and Inzaghi see the need for a clinical striker in January.
Lautaro - 5.5: Barely had an impact except for a wayward bicycle attempt (can’t blame him for trying, it would have been the goal of the season if he pulled it off). Need more from him especially as age catches up to Dzeko.
Dimarco - 6.5: Brought a bit of life to Inter’s left flank from the bench. Tallied 70 touches in just one half of action, including 6 crosses and 4 accurate long balls.
Inzaghi - 7: Didn’t have many decisions to make in terms of the starting lineup but had to go to his bench to wake Inter up. All of the moves paid off (with the exception of Vecino). Not bringing Sensi in, however, seems to put to rest any dreams of an Eriksen-like turnaround for Sensi.
Inter moves five points clear of Milan ahead of the Rossoneri’s Sunday night clash with Juventus. Up next for Inter is a well deserved two week international break. The fatigue from two games going into extra time in as many weeks is making its presence felt and a rest could only do Inter good. February promises to be just as busy, with the derby welcoming Inter back on the 6th before clashes with Roma (Coppa Italia), Napoli, Liverpool (UCL), and Sassuolo over the coming weeks. Buckle up, because it’s going to be a wild ride.