After a shaky preseason and a last-second win at Lecce last week, it may have been fair to wonder how Inter Milan would perform in their first match in front of home fans at San Siro. With the squad improving with each passing week of training, any doubt about this match was put to rest 35 minutes in, as Romelu Lukaku found Lautaro Martinez for the first goal of the match and the first sighting of the iconic ‘Lu-La’ partnership since the 2020-21 season. From there, Inter cruised to a comfortable 3-0 win that never seemed to come under any real doubt.
Manager Simone Inzaghi made two changes to the team that narrowly defeated Lecce on a rough pitch last week. Alessandro Bastoni and Denzel Dumfries both made their first starts of the season. Federico Dimarco moved up the pitch from left center back to left wingback to make room for Bastoni, with Robin Gosens starting on the bench. Denzel Dumfries replaced Matteo Darmian to give the wings a real shakeup.
New Spezia manager Luca Gotti had to make do without Daniele Verde for this match after the striker picked up an injury in the club’s opening match against Empoli. Because of this, Kevin Agudelo moved up top from the midfield position he occupied in the win over Empoli to partner with M’Bala Nzola in Gotti’s 3-5-2. Jacopo Sala stepped into the vacancy left in the midfield.
INTER (3-5-2): Handanovic; Skriniar, de Vrij, Bastoni; Dumfries, Barella, Brozovic, Calhanoglu, Dimarco; Lukaku, Lautaro.
SPEZIA (3-5-1-1): Dragowski; Caldara, Kiwior, Nikolaou; Gyasi, Bourabia, Sala, Bastoni, Reca; Agudelo; Nzola.
From the start, Inter made an objective out of getting in behind the Spezia defense. However, with the team not completely clicking yet, these attempts to play Lukaku and others off of the shoulder of the last man led to a handful of offside calls in the opening minutes.
The first real scoring chance for the hosts came eight minutes into the match, with a Hakan Calhanoglu free kick flashing dangerously across the Spezia penalty box. The out-swinging ball met the head of Dumfries at the back post and was also played by Bastoni and Lautaro, but goalkeeper Bartlomiej Dragowski stood tall to deny all attempts.
Five minutes later, Dragowski once again had to stop a shot from Lautaro, as the number 10 took a snap shot from the top of the box. Inter piled on the pressure through the entire half, not allowing a single shot to the visitors, but Dragowski seemed up for the task of frustrating Inter at San Siro once again.
It took 35 minutes, but Inter found the first goal of the match in part from their plan of getting in behind Spezia. A ball over the top from Nicolo Barella was cushioned down with a header by Lukaku to the feet of Lautaro, who made no mistake with his first touch, driving the ball past Dragowski and into the bottom corner. A wonderful end to a move that was all too familiar to Interisti in previous years.
Put the word the out, they're back up!— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) August 20, 2022
Romelu Lukaku assists Lautaro Martínez, Inter Milan take the lead. pic.twitter.com/tccTbg3SyL
Inter nearly got a second before the halftime whistle after winning the ball high up the pitch, but Dragowski did well to come out and get a hand on the shot from Dumfries. Just a couple of minutes later, Bastoni played an inch perfect long ball to Lukaku, but his header thumped the crossbar and bounded back into play. The Nerazzurri went into the half on top, but perhaps unlucky not to have hit the back of the net more than once.
After really having to push for the first goal in the opening half, it took only six minutes of the second half for Inter to get their second. Lukaku and Milan Skriniar tried some tight linkup play in the Spezia box, but the ball was poked away directly into the path of Calhanoglu, who quickly struck a shot past Dragowski at his near post.
Hakan Çalhanoğlu doubles Inter's lead pic.twitter.com/DaPEWRpGwZ— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) August 20, 2022
Two goals down, Spezia decided to come out of their shell and play some football in Inter’s end of the pitch. Spezia’s first shot of the game came in minute 71 from David Strelec, but his attempt missed the target. One of two Spezia shots in the entire match, both off target.
Nine minutes from time, Inter added a third from substitute Joaquin Correa, who slotted home after a great move from fellow substitutes Roberto Gagliardini and Edin Dzeko. The third goal capped off what can only be described as a complete victory for Inter.
Joaquín Correa makes it 3!— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) August 20, 2022
Beautiful center forward play from Edin Džeko and he makes it easy for his striker partner. pic.twitter.com/gFvIgG0XWQ
Handanovic - 6: As a general rule late into the captain’s career, the less shots he has to face, the better. With Spezia having no shots on target, this match was the epitome of that philosophy.
Skriniar - 6.5: After a shaky first match of the season, he looked much more like the player we know. Visible at both ends of the pitch. With the transfer rumors around him effectively put to bed, it is only up from here.
de Vrij - 6.5: Two decent matches from him to start the season. One errant back pass led to a corner, but very solid other than that.
Bastoni - 7: Defended well and nearly assisted Lukaku for a goal. When the backline concedes no shots on goal, it can only bode well for the rest of the team.
Dimarco - 7: Always a threat with his delivery from open play and from set pieces. Looked much more effective in attack as a wingback and pressed very well when needed.
Calhanoglu - 6.5: Still trying to find the flow with his midfield partners, but scored a very good goal. Looks to be picking up where he left off as a serious contributor to this team.
Brozovic - 6.5: Much better in this match than last because he was not rushing back for fitness. The midfield needs him to find his rhythm for the unit and the team to play their best football.
Barella - 6.5: Had a quiet but solid match. Helped Inter break quickly on the counter and helped Inter keep Spezia from establishing any kind of meaningful possession by harrying their midfielders.
Dumfries - 7 (MOTM): He didn’t get on the scoresheet, but he confirmed that he is the most in-form player for Inter so far this season. Taking on his man, linking up with attackers, and overall being a massive attacking threat on the right. With Ivan Perisic gone, Denzel is eagerly taking on the mantle as Inter’s direct wingback threat.
Lautaro - 6.5: Got off the mark for the season and could’ve had a hat trick on a more fortunate day. The Lu-La partnership is going to thrive this season.
Lukaku - 6.5: Assisted Lautaro and showed that he still has a great understanding with the Argentine. Also occupied multiple defenders on the Calhanoglu goal. However, his touch and final ball are still alluding him. They’ll both come to him soon enough, though. Watch out when it all gets to clicking.
Gosens - 6: Came on for Dimarco and showed he still has work to do. The coaching staff has explained that it is more a matter of mentality than physical form, so some more time training at full strength will hopefully bring out the best in him.
Dzeko - 7: The big Bosnian looks very sharp in his new role as impact striker. Coming off the bench will keep him fresh to make things happen on the pitch like his assist for Correa.
Gagliardini - 6.5: Many Interisti were aggrieved when they saw the number five come on over the likes of Kristjan Asllani and Lucien Agoume, but he started the move that led to the Correa goal with a great long ball. Credit to him.
Correa/Asllani - N/A
Inzaghi - 7: He rewarded Dimarco and Dumfries with starts on the wings after both performed very well there in the second half against Lecce. Aside from that, he did not have too many other decisions to make. He didn’t overthink it and his team cruised. The ceiling is high this year under Simone, and it will be his job to make sure the team hits it at the right time.
A bit of a shorter week is coming up for Inter as they travel to the Stadio Olimpico to face Lazio on Friday. Last season’s trip to face Lazio did not go as planned, so Simone Inzaghi will be looking to beat Lazio at the Olimpico for the first time as a manager. There is also a Champions League group stage draw that the Nerazzurri will be interested in on Thursday as they look to improve on last season’s round of 16 exit. Plenty to look forward to!