Inter have put their fans through the emotional wringer in the form of a virtual cup tie against Barcelona that has twisted and turned through the past week. A narrow win at home and a chaotic, all out 3-3 draw in Barcelona on either side of a 2-1 win over Sassuolo could easily have left Simone Inzaghi’s team physically and mentally exhausted. That was not the case on Sunday afternoon in Milan, when Inter easily dispatched of Salernitana in a match that could have seen more than two goals for the hosts.
Inter’s regista auditions continued in this match. This time it was Hakan Calhanoglu tasked with being Inter’s deepest midfielder. Lautaro Martinez and Edin Dzeko started together again with the fitness of Joaquin Correa and Romelu Lukaku still resembling a question mark. Interestingly, Francesco Acerbi started on the left side of the back three, with Stefan de Vrij in the center and Milan Skriniar on the right.
Salernitana took the pitch with plenty of Milanese flavor. Antonio Candreva, Krzysztof Piatek, and Lorenzo Pirola were all starters for Davide Nicola and all have spent parts of their careers with the two Milanese giants. Federico Bonazzoli added a further name to the cast of former Inter and Milan players, but started from the bench.
INTER (3-5-2): Onana; Skriniar, de Vrij, Acerbi; Dumfries, Barella, Calhanoglu, Mkhitaryan, Dimarco; Dzeko, Lautaro.
SALERNITANA (3-5-2): Sepe; Gyomber, Daniliuc, Pirola, Candreva, Coulibaly, Kastanos, Vilhena, Mazzocchi; Piatek, Dia.
Inter played the most intense 90 minutes of the season just days before, but that did not seem to affect their approach to this match. From the outset, the hosts dominated possession and did not find it all that difficult to make their way into dangerous positions.
Despite being able to get into dangerous positions, Inter’s first goal came from distance. Nicolo Barella, playing often in this match as Inter’s most advanced midfielder, laid a short pass to Lautaro, who set up and struck a shot in a quick motion that caught both the Salernitana defense and attack off guard. His shot bounced in front of Luigi Sepe and nestled into the far corner to give Inter the lead just before the 15 minute mark. Bringing his goal tally to five in three against Salernitana.
LAUTARO MARTÍNEZ LOVES SCORING AGAINST SALERNITANA. pic.twitter.com/fhGMRg3b9B— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) October 16, 2022
After the first goal, Inter spent the half testing Sepe for a second goal. It took some unlucky finishing as well as some acrobatics to keep the ball from hitting the back of the net for a second time in 45 minutes.
Salernitana had their only sustained possession just before the half, but Andre Onana continued to show that he is the best option in goal for the hosts at the moment with a couple of solid saves.
Salernitana made the closest thing to a comeback attempt early in the second half. Onana was forced into a few saves and the match felt for a moment that if Salernitana could break through, this would really be a match for anyone.
Inter were able to sidestep any of these possible risks with a beautiful goal from Nicolo Barella 13 minutes into the half. A peach of a ball over the top of the defense from Calhanoglu landed on the foot of the Italian midfielder, who was able to take out his defender with an impeccable first touch before firing past Sepe. A show of Inter’s dynamic midfield talent.
NICOLÒ BARELLA WITH A DELICIOUS FIRST TOUCH AND A FINISH TO MATCH.— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) October 16, 2022
The ball fromHakan Çalhanoğlu pic.twitter.com/eid6aAsalT
Shortly after the goal, Inter were dealt a blow when Federico Dimarco was forced off due to cramps. Camp Nou goal scorer Robin Gosens replaced him. With the two goals against them, Salernitana began to raise the white flag. This did not stop Inter from nearly getting a third on multiple occasions, including for Lautaro who could have had three or four on a luckier day.
As Inter began to put the finishing touches on a clean sheet and a needed three Serie A points, Inzaghi made an interesting late change that involved taking off Calhanoglu for Matteo Darmian, who played briefly as a makeshift midfielder. Perhaps something we will see more of in the future? It did not last long, though, with the match petering out shortly after.
Onana - 6.5: The Cameroonian international continues to boost Inter from the back, making great saves, diving all over, and making the opposition pressing much harder with his skills on the ball. A joy to watch, even in the more calm matches.
Skriniar - 6.5: Another match with as captain, another good result. A good individual performance for him as well while Inter come away with the clean sheet.
de Vrij - 6.5: His resurgence continues. Good to see him back after a year of pedestrian performances. Seems to have won that central spot over Francesco Acerbi.
Acerbi - 6.5: Interesting to see him occupy a position usually taken by Dimarco or Alessandro Bastoni, two attack-minded defenders. Could afford to be more conservative with Salernitana not threating all too much. Proving to be the tidy signing he was expected to be.
Dumfries - 6: Did not have a bad match by any means, but did continue to show that he is hesitant to challenge his man when the opposition defense sits deep. When he did get in behind, the Salernitana defense hounded him with what were essentially rugby tackles, so I don’t fully blame his hesitancy in this one.
Barella - 7.5 (MOTM): An assist and a great goal. He continues to impress with this newfound confidence and fitness. He will be key in keeping this Inter team competitive this season, especially if he continues on like this.
Calhanoglu - 7: Yet another Inter player has impressed in the regista position without Marcelo Brozovic. He controlled play so well and his vision was definitely improved by not having the extra physical duties of a mezzala on his plate. Inter have a lot of midfield combinations. Keeping them all fresh and unpredictable could go a long way in not running out of creative ideas as the season wears on.
Mkhitaryan - 6: Struggled to impose himself physically on the match from the mezzala position, though that is not quite his game to begin with. When he was able to get on the ball though, he did the right things.
Dimarco - 6: Lacked a bit of quality in his deliveries, but may not have been fully fit after being the focus of Barcelona’s attacks early in the match on Wednesday. As demonstrated by his cramp issues around the hour mark that forced him off.
Lautaro - 7: When his confidence is high, he can be one of the most dangerous strikers in the world. We are seeing that confidence on the rise after the goal and assist against Barcelona. He could have much more than the lone goal for himself in this one.
Dzeko - 5.5: He was gassed before the match and I assume that everyone knew it. He can’t keep up with two matches a week, but still offers buckets of quality when allowed ample rest. Hopefully, the return of Correa as a substitute in this match is a signal the the Bosnian will get a rest soon.
Gosens - 6: Replaced Dimarco when he was forced off, did not have much to do with the game essentially out of reach for Salernitana at that point.
Asllani - 6: A promising showing after the controversial miss at the end of the match on Wednesday. Young and improving.
Correa - 5.5: Not much to offer on his return from injury. Just good to begin to get his feet wet again.
Darmian/Bellanova - N/A
Inzaghi - 7: Seems to have figured out the little adjustments that this team needed to get ticking. Now that he is not grappling with structure and positioning, he can focus on getting his tactical actions and reactions correct. We are not seeing the same amount of misjudgment from the outset, which has allowed him to approach his role as manager with a much clearer head.
For the first time in a bit, Inter will have a full week off to prepare for a trip to Fiorentina on Saturday before a huge match against Viktoria Plzen at home. Wins in the next two matches would be huge for Inter’s season overall and fully demonstrate their ambitions to actually do something with this season. Something we were not sure we would see a few weeks ago. Just keep the momentum going.