Grinding was going to be the name of the game coming into Inter’s visit to Atalanta, and the action on the field didn’t disappoint. Gian Piero Gasperini’s side caused Inter problems with its high press all night, but despite bending here and there, the Nerazzurri not only never broke, but also proved lethal in the final third. A penalty from Hakan Calhanoglu and Lautaro Martinez’s wonder strike was enough for the victory, and though a Gianluca Scamacca goal made it interesting, the final score was in favor of the good guys.
Simone Inzaghi sprung one surprise in the starting eleven, benching Alessandro Bastoni in favor of Stefan de Vrij and moving Francesco Acerbi over to the left flank. What took a bit more getting used to, however, was Inter’s rather unique orange third strip which sure stood out for better or worse. Atalanta, meanwhile, lined up in the expected 3-4-1-2 with Gianluca Scamacca and Ademola Lookman leading the charge.
Proceedings began amidst quite the backdrop of a construction site and the skeleton of a stand behind Yan Sommer’s goal. On the pitch, though, it was Atalanta who looked a bit more up for it and caused Inter headaches with its high press. La Dea couldn’t convert that into much final third action, with the sole exception being a Matteo Ruggeri volley that whizzed just wide of the far post in the 21st minute. The low point of the half from an Inter perspective came in the 30th minute when Benjamin Pavard suffered what appeared to be a serious knee injury after an awkward landing (although he did manage to climb off the stretcher and walk off under his own power).
It was Pavard’s replacement, Matteo Darmian, who would play a key role in Inter’s opener in the 40th minute. A marauding run forward from the Italian caused havoc in Atalanta’s box and Juan Musso clattered into a sliding Darmian with the ball loose near the end line. The referee pointed to the spot and Hakan Calhanoglu kept his perfect penalty record alive with his 10th straight tally from 12 yards.
Hakan Çalhanoğlu gets Inter's first goal of the day from the penalty spot. pic.twitter.com/7XfBNnaGj4— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) November 4, 2023
That was just about the last major moment from the first half, which ended 1-0 in favor of the good guys. The stats were as even as they get, however, with possession at 50-50 and shots 5 (1) on target) to 3 (2 on target) in Atalanta’s favor. La Dea failed to take advantage of its early dominance though, while Inter made the hosts pay after one mistake.
Inter came out of the break on the front foot, and after coming close on several occasions, found its second of the night in the 57th minute thanks to a moment of magic from Lautaro. The Argentine received a Mkhitaryan layoff in the top corner of the box and curled an effort into the upper corner.
It's that man AGAIN!— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) November 4, 2023
Lautaro Martínez cannot stop scoring. pic.twitter.com/pqdUwEfkoz
Atalanta was almost immediately handed a lifeline, however, thanks to a poor Calhanoglu backpass and an even poorer Dimarco giveaway. Lookman picked the latter’s pocket in the box and sent a simple square ball to Scamacca, who blasted home from close range in the 61st minute.
Gianluca Scamacca pulls one back for Atalanta, his fifth goal since coming back to Italy!— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) November 4, 2023
We have a game on our hands. pic.twitter.com/wXhBh9OFRP
Scamacca’s strike gave Atalanta momentum to push for an equalizer, while Inter’s main priority became holding onto its lead. It made for an understandably nervy final thirty minutes, but after a bit of drama, Sommer saves, and a Rafael Toloi red card for dragging down Alexis Sanchez on the counter, Inter could lay claim to the victory.
Sommer - 7: Couldn’t do anything on the goal, but was up to the task whenever else he was called into action. Made 3 saves by the time all was said and done, none of which were all too easy.
Acerbi - 6.5: Unsurprisingly failed to replace Bastoni’s prowess on the ball, but did well enough defensively to make up for it with 3 duels won, 2 clearances, 2 tackles, and 1 blocked shot.
de Vrij - 6.5: Didn’t stand out, but didn’t underwhelm either with 4 duels won, 4 clearances, and 1 interception to his name.
Pavard - 6.5: Was solid in his half-hour of action, making 4 clearances, winning 2 duels, and completing 100% of his passes. Hopefully, the Frenchman’s injury isn’t as serious as it looks.
Darmian - 7: Came on and almost immediately drew a penalty foul, before locking down the backline with 4 duels won, 3 clearances, 1 blocked shot, and 1 interception.
Dimarco - 5: Won 3 duels and notched a key pass and 4 accurate long balls, but it’s hard to overlook his horrible giveaway (one of 12 total, the second-most on Inter) and silly attempt at winning a foul instead of booting the ball to safety with Lookman breathing down his neck.
Mkhitaryan - 7: Assisted Lautaro’s golazo with a smart layoff after winning possession, along with 7 duels won, 2 interceptions, and 3 key passes in quite the well-rounded outing.
Calhanoglu - 8 (Man of the Match): Opened the scoring with a perfect penalty and was generally dominant in the center of the park, leading Inter in touches (100) and passes (73), along with 7 duels won, 3 clearances, 4 accurate long balls, and 1 key pass. The only blemish was a poor back pass to Dimarco before Scamacca’s goal.
Barella - 6.5: Took quite the beating in the first half with a stomp on the top of his head the worst of it all, but still managed 4 duels won, 2 clearances, 2 interceptions, 3 accurate long balls, and 1 key pass.
Dumfries - 6: Was more productive off the ball than on it, with 5 duels won and 2 blocked shots, but also 15 giveaways.
Lautaro - 8: Scored one heck of a goal for the game-winner, but also put in a good deal of defensive work with 4 duels won, 1 clearance, and 2 interceptions.
Thuram - 6: Not much of an impact from the Frenchman, who ended the night with just 7 duels won, 0 shots, and 16 giveaways.
Inzaghi - 7.5: This wasn’t going to be an easy game by any means (prior to today Atalanta had yet to concede at home all season), but Inzaghi came prepared and did everything well, from the gameplan and starting XI to the subs.
Inter will remain first for another week, with its lead currently at five points ahead of Milan/Udinese and Fiorentina/Juventus. Next up is a visit to RB Salzburg in the Champions League on Wednesday and a home meeting against Frosinone next Sunday in Serie A.
Also, a personal note. As you may have heard, I’m the new Site Manager after 3 years on the writing staff. It’s been a lot of fun so far and I’m excited for what’s to come. Josh has done a great job so I’m not sure we’ll see much change in the day-to-day operations, but if anyone has new ideas to try out I’d love to hear them. In the long term, the goal is to carry on the work from past site managers by growing the site and keeping this community going season after season.