It wasn’t a beautiful ninety minutes, but the end result was just what the doctor ordered. Inter bounced back from defeat to Bologna with a smooth 2-0 victory over Lecce that regains 2nd place in the table for the Nerazzurri and alleviates concerns of a crisis over Simone Inzaghi’s men.
Simone Inzaghi made 3 changes from the team that lost to Bologna a week ago, with Romelu Lukaku, Marcelo Brozovic, and Stefan de Vrij replaced by Edin Dzeko, Nicolo Barella, and Francesco Acerbi respectively. Lecce, meanwhile, lined up in Marco Baroni’s customary 4-3-3, with ex-Barca man Samuel Umtiti anchoring the defense.
Inter controlled possession out of the gates but the final product was lacking until a moment of brilliance from Henrikh Mkhitaryan. The Armenian beautifully swept a Nicolo Barella layoff into the upper ninety in the 29th minute to edge Inter in front.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan's goal is the definition of top bins pic.twitter.com/qdvoaLoL2r— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) March 5, 2023
Outside of that one moment of attacking quality from the good guys, the first half was an uneventful affair with Inter dominating possession (72%) and managing 8 shots (2 on target) versus Lecce’s 3 (1 on target), none of which were much more than half-chances.
The second half followed a similar trend, but this time we had to wait only 8 minutes for a goal. Inter found a second of the night through Lautaro Martinez, banging home a finish very similar to Mkhitaryan’s.
Lautaro Martinez scores his 14th goal of the season ⚫ pic.twitter.com/b77HlAbsAB— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) March 5, 2023
The two-goal advantage put Inter in cruise control and the Nerazzurri eased to a 2-0 victory. Despite being outshot by Lecce in the second half 8-6, the visitors managed just one shot on target all evening and never tested Andre Onana, while Inter got its goals and then sat back.
Onana - 7: Made just 1 save but a clean sheet is a clean sheet.
Bastoni - 6.5: Not a very active outing from Bastoni (much like Inter in general to be fair), though he did manage 4 accurate long balls and 3 duels won.
Acerbi - 7: Commanded the defense superbly, with 8 duels won, 2 clearances, 2 blocked shots, and 3 interceptions.
Darmian - 6.5: Filled in for Milan Skriniar once again, leading Inter in touches (90), managing 5 accurate long balls, and winning 8 duels.
Gosens - 6.5: Finally starting to show his talent with some consistent starts. Helped create the opener with a splitting pass through the Lecce defense, won 5 duels, and made 2 interceptions.
Mkhitaryan - 7: Opened the scoring with a flourish super finish to upper ninety but wasn’t all too busy otherwise.
Calhanoglu - 7.5 (Man of the Match): Regained the regista role from Brozovic and for good reason. Calhanoglu tallied up 4 key passes, 4 accurate crosses, 7 successful long balls, and 2 duels won in quite the well-rounded showing.
Barella - 7: Assisted the opener with a slick layoff to go along with 9 duels won, 1 clearance, and 1 key pass.
Dumfries - 5.5: Had a horrible end product almost every time the ball went to him, but still somehow managed to snag an assist on Lautaro’s goal. Football is a funny sport.
Lautaro - 7: Continues to lead Inter’s attack with his 14th strike of the season and added on 2 key passes and 7 duels won.
Dzeko - 6.5: No goal or assist from the Bosnian but he managed 4 shots and a larger role in the build-up play.
Inzaghi - 7: Made some big decisions to drop Brozovic and Lukaku but it paid off and then some. The only question mark for the Mister is why he keeps avoiding playing Kristjan Asllani. Seriously, why sub on Roberto Gagliardini (who’s leaving for free this summer anyway) over a 10+ million summer signing who will only improve with playing time?
Inter moves up to second on 50 points, 3 clear of 4th place Milan. Next up for the good guys is a visit to Spezia on Friday and then Leg 2 of the Champions League Round of 16 the following Tuesday.