With three wins in Inter’s last four meeting against Sassuolo, there was the feeling that the Neroverdi were no longer the dreaded ‘bogey-team’ they had been. Not so fast. Domenico Berardi and Co handed Inter its third straight home defeat, with goals from the Inter-linked duo of Gianluca Scamacca and Giacomo Raspadori (not to mention some substantial heroics from our old friend Andrea Consigli). More worryingly than the result, which was already concerning enough, is the flat and listless performance put out by Inter. the absence of Marcelo Brozovic hurt but is no excuse for the complete lack of structure and offensive competency we saw. Sassuolo capitalized on its chances with lethal precision whereas Inter failed to find the net even after throwing on three strikers. The Nerazzurri’s title credentials are now fully under the microscope and you can alarm hear the alarm bells at the Meazza.
Simone Inzaghi was forced into a pair of changes from the team that fell to Liverpool midweek, with Federico Dimarco and Roberto Gagliardini slotting in for the suspended duo of Marcelo Brozovic (yellow card accumulation) and Alessandro Bastoni (dissent), respectively. Inter made two more voluntary changes as well, with Alexis Sanchez and Matteo Darmian regaining starting spots instead of Dzeko and Dumfries. Sassuolo lined up in Alessio Dionisi’s favored 4-2-3-1 shape, with the Inter-linked trio of Raspadori, Scamacca, and Frattesi all starting.
Sassuolo almost took the lead within the opening minute when Raspadori slipped Hamed Traore in behind the Inter defense, only for the Ivorian to pull his shot just wide. The visitors wouldn’t have to wait much longer to break the ice. This time it was Raspadori providing the finishing touch to a quick counter off a cheap Calhanoglu giveaway in midfield.
GIACOMO RASPADORI!— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) February 20, 2022
THE 22 YEAR OLD STUNS INTER MILAN. pic.twitter.com/ShY5LDlxSo
Calhanoglu almost atoned for his earlier error when he let loose on a rocket from outside the box that narrowly sliced wide of the post in the 16th minute. Inter began to settle into a spell of prolonged possession but it was Sassuolo who would strike next in the 26th minute via a Scamacca header.
GIANLUCA SCAMACCA DOUBLES SASSUOLO'S LEAD AGAINST INTER MILAN. pic.twitter.com/KIqjnyJ4kB— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) February 20, 2022
Inter almost pulled one back immediately in the 31st minute. Milan Skriniar headed a corner goalwards but Andrea Consigli somehow pawed the ball off the line (it wouldn’t be Sassuolo without a Consigli wonder save(s)). The Neroverdi came inches from a shock three-goal lead right before the break. A curling effort from Domenico Berardi pinged off the crossbar with Handanovic frozen to the ground.
Ultimately, the 2-0 lead was a deserving one for Sassuolo, who had Inter thoroughly outclassed and outcoached. Though Inter held an edge in possession and shots (61% of the ball and 12 shots versus Sassuolo’s 5), the visitors were dangerous every time it ventured forward. Inter, meanwhile, failed to test Consigli often and looked incredibly leaky at the back.
Denzel Dumfries and Edin Dzeko made their arrival on the scene after the interval, replacing Darmian and Gagliardini. Inter immediately found some attacking life thanks to the reinforcements but it proved futile. For better or worse, Dzeko was the main character of the second half, causing most of the problems in the final third but missing a handful of chances. First came a one-v-one with Consigli from a tight angle in the 58th minute, but the keeper closed down Dzeko’s options. A header from the Bosnian was pawed off the goal-line by Consigli in the 64th minute before Dzeko completely whiffed on a cross from close range soon after. As if that wasn’t enough, Inter’s veteran striker bungled yet another one-v-one in the 69th minute. Lautaro got in on the action as well, blasting a point-blank rebound wide in the 72nd minute.
The closing stages were wildly back and forth as both teams lost their legs. Raspadori almost sealed the deal in the 79th minute but Handanovic was able to save his close-range chip. Inter thought it cut the deficit in half late in stoppage time but a VAR review disallowed Stefan de Vrij’s headed goal for a Dimarco handball. Final score, Inter 0, Sassuolo 2.
Handanovic - 5: Continues to be a massive liability for Inter. We could analyze the specifics of his mistakes all we want but it boils down to this; Inter can’t rely on him to make even average saves anymore, let alone the type of chances Sassuolo carved out today. Both goals (the first one for sure) would have been saved by an in-his-prime Handanovic but unfortunately we’re several years past that.
Dimarco - 6.5: Dimarco was a liability defensively and at least partially responsible for Scamacca’s goal. He was better on the ball though, and led Inter in touches (115), had 5 key passes, 7 accurate crosses from a team-high 14 attempts, and 5 accurate long balls.
de Vrij - 6: Not much to speak of at either end for the Dutchman (which is probably for the best considering his recent form). Had the second-most touches on Inter, 6 duels won, 2 interceptions, and a 94% passing rate, so all in all a decent outing.
Skriniar - 7 (Man of the Match): Skriniar single-handedly kept the scoreline respectable on multiple occasions and made several vital one-v-one stops on Hamed Traore. Had 2 clearances, 4 clearances, 4 duels won, and 2 blocked shots to his name. The only Inter player to show some fight.
Perisic - 5.5: Uncharacteristically poor from the Croatian. Lost track of Scamacca on the second goal and consistently made the wrong decision in the final third. It wasn’t for lack of trying, however, and despite a number of mistakes Perisic made 3 key passes, won 4 duels, and made 2 interceptions.
Calhanoglu - 5.5: With the exception of the giveaway that led to Raspadori’s goal, Hakan barely made an impact. His stats looked nice (5 accurate long balls, 2 key passes, 6 crosses) but his efforts were ultimately fruitless and his set-pieces were hit or miss.
Barella - 5: Struggled to make an impact in a deeper role filling in for Brozovic. Had just 1 key pass, 1 cross, and 3 unsuccessful long balls.
Gagliardini - 4: Simply not good enough for Inter. The drop-off from Brozovic to him was immense and having a player as limited as him in the midfield department hampered Calhanoglu and Barella as well. Contributed very little to the build-up and was yanked at halftime.
Darmian - 4.5: Last season’s Mr. Clutch has struggled to find his form this season. Whether it was rust or something deeper, Darmian offered nothing in a rare start, with just 27 touches, 6 giveaways, and a 86% passing rate.
Lautaro - 4.5: Missed another sitter (surprise surprise) and drifted to the periphery for long stretches of the game. I feel pretty confident in saying that at this point it’s far more serious than just a slump in form.
Sanchez - 5: Failed to make much of an impact and is definitely more of a super-sub than a starter. Had just one shot on target and 1 key pass.
Dzeko - 5: Simultaneously Inter’s most dangerous attacker and one of the major problems in the final third. Had 7 shots and a number of embarrassing misses (he missed two ‘big chances’ according to fbref). It’s glaringly obvious a clinical striker is this team’s number one priority in the summer.
Dumfries - 6: An immediate upgrade from Darmian when he came on at halftime, notching 4 key passes, 2 accurate long balls, and 4 duels won. Sunday proved that Dumfries is a key part of this team, which isn’t something we would have expected after his rough start.
Inzaghi - 5: The team had no organization whatsoever in the first half and that falls on the coach. His subs at halftime were positive and it was a relief he didn’t wait around for the players on the field to improve. And ultimately that’s nothing he can do about the multitude of missed chances either. However, his Barella at regista experiment utterly failed and Gagliardini never should have seen the pitch (obviously Sensi would have come in handy today but if it’s any solace he missed Sampdoria’s clash with Empoli yesterday due to, you guessed it, injury).
Milan has now moved two points clear of Inter and Napoli could leapfrog the Nerazzurri with a win over Cagliari. Not great! The next two matches are crucial for Inter’s Scudetto hopes. Inter plays Genoa and Salernitana (19th and 20th) while Napoli and Milan meet in two weeks time. The good guys also have the away game at Bologna still to be played. The Scudetto is certainly winnable, but it’s going to take performances 1000x times better than what we saw against Sassuolo.
See you Friday in Genoa.