Italian Serie A News, Results, Analysis and Features on Football Soccer

TB On October - 20 - 2011

The Inter-View: One Step At A Time

To say that Inter’s Champions League match Tuesday night against Ligue 1 champions Lille was a “must win” would be a massive understatement.  After a lackluster performance at the weekend that resulted in a loss to Catania, the heat was on and cranked up to the maximum temperature.

Yes, one could argue the penalty given against Luca Castellazzi was a soft call and it should never have been given.  The thing is, the Inter squad that took the pitch in the second half against Catania looked toothless and based on the play, did not deserve the points.  Once again, the pressure was felt in the Nerazzurri camp.  This time, it was not only felt by coach Claudio Ranieri, but the entire senior squad, as well.

President Massimo Moratti gave a frank interview to Italian sports daily Gazzetta dello Sport in which he basically called out the whole team.  The only one he deemed untouchable and indispensable was Wesley Sneijder, who was scheduled to return from injury for the midweek clash in France.  A very serious mood had settled over Appiano Gentile and really, there was no other choice but to face the reigning French champions and win.

The odds were not looking good for Inter, as Lille had been in a good run of form while the Nerazzurri were struggling to find their feet.  On top of that, the Italians’ record in France was historically poor, all signs that it could potentially be a long night and even a longer flight home.

The importance of the match was highlighted more so when Moratti himself was at the Lille Metropole stadium.  Moratti’s attendance for a group stage match away from home?  Why yes, this match was very important.

Despite the situation, there were two positives that Inter possessed coming into this match: the returns of Sneijder and Thiago Motta from injury.  Motta had been out since the beginning of the season and this match showcased what had been missing from the Inter midfield.  The Italo-Brazilian’s presence brought strength, precision and an extra dimension that had been lacking on the field.  With Sneijder, his creativity was definitely a sight for sore Interisti eyes.

Inter welcomed back Julio Cesar in goal, with Maicon, Lucio, Cristian Chivu, and Yuto Nagatomo in defense.  The midfield consisted of Captain Javier Zanetti, Thiago Motta, and Esteban Cambiasso, with Wesley Sneijder in the trequartista role behind forwards Mauro Zarate and Giampaolo Pazzini.  It was of special interest to note that this was Zanetti’s 100th match in European competitions, only adding to his long list of already astounding accomplishments.

Lille started the match of well and held possession over Inter, who were soaking up pressure and were content on striking through counterattacks.  In fact, that entire match was seemingly played out in that fashion.  The lone goal of the night was orchestrated by none other than Sneijder.  The Dutch man played a perfect ball to Zarate and in turn, the Argentine secured his first assist of the season as he found Pazzini, who struck the ball with authority into the net.  Pazzini’s 21st minute volley was so strong that it broke the video camera that was placed in the net.

After the goal, the biggest question of the night was if Inter would be able to keep a hold of a lead.  If there was a time to keep a clean sheet, this match was as good a time as any to start.

Lille was unrelenting in attack and the main reason why they never scored was because of the form of Julio Cesar.  Cesar was incredible and for many people, undoubtedly the man of the match.  He seemed to be everywhere he needed to be, stretching out with catlike reflexes to deny Lille anything.  The looks of frustration on the French team said it all.

There are also two other Inter players who must be mentioned and be given credit as they performed well that night.  First off, Chivu did a good job helping Lucio hold the defensive fort down and showed that he still has his defensive prowess.  Zarate also must be mentioned as he is slowly learning the style of the team’s play.  Besides his assist, Zarate was tracking back and defending, which has never been a part of his repertoire but is now slowly being instilled in him.

This was not the typical 1-0 Inter win, as it was not a result that was ‘grinded out.’  Being away from home and on the back foot, there was fire and urgency within the team, something that had been severely lacking this season.  Not only was the team able to hold the lead, it was done by keeping a clean sheet.  This can only boost the morale of the team and the defenders in particular, as they had been pegged in the media as being ‘too old’.

A partial load has been lifted off the Nerazzurri’s shoulders, but after two Champions League away wins, this form has to be transferred to Serie A.  This weekend has Inter hosting Chievo at the Giuseppe Meazza and with key players now available, this is a perfect time to get the ball rolling in a positive direction.

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