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

Eight days ago, Inter were flying high off an extraordinary run of seven straight league wins, including victories against city rivals Milan and fourth place Lazio.  The club had a midweek fixture in the Coppa Italia against Napoli, only to lose in controversial fashion once again to the Partenopei.  Surely, the Nerazzurri would be able to bounce back from the heated loss and respond in a positive manner against relegation threatened Lecce.  Lecce had not won a home game all season and all signs pointed to the visitors from Milan taking all three points.  Unfortunately for Inter, Serse Cosmi’s men were in no mood to comply.

Claudio Ranieri started a formidable 4-3-1-2 formation comprising of Julio Cesar in goal; Maicon, Lucio, Walter Samuel, and Yuto Nagatomo in defense; Captain Javier Zanetti, Esteban Cambiasso, and Joel Obi in midfield.  Wesley Sneijder was in his preferred trequartista role, behind the frontline of Giampaolo Pazzini and Diego Milito.

The match itself was nowhere near the caliber of what Inter had previously displayed in weeks prior.  The squad looked tired due to the aforementioned midweek Coppa tie and seemingly walked through the first half hour.  Lecce goalkeeper Massimiliano Benassi made a mistake early on that Milito tried to capitalize on, but the angle was too tight for the Argentine.  After that one slip up by Benassi, he proceeded to have an absolutely stellar performance against the Nerazzurri, continuously denying them the goal they craved.  The Inter attack was relentless after the thirty minute mark and it was unbelievable that the score line was 0 – 0, though it did not stay that way much longer.  Lecce took the lead after Guillermo Giacomazzi converted a Massimo Oddo cross five minutes before halftime, all of which was completely against the run of play.

Ranieri tinkered with the team and formation at halftime, substituting Ricky Alvarez in for Wesley Sneijder and switching to a 4-4-2.  Inter had even more chances and had two balls find the back of the net, only to be disallowed because the offside flag had gone up.  Benassi continued to have a ‘game of his life’ type performance, pulling off saves that required him to go the distance until the very end.  Ranieri put Mauro Zarate on for Obi to give another attacking option to no avail.  As the clock ticked down, it was obvious that it was just one of those days where nothing was going to go in.

As defeats tend to bring a heavy amount of criticism and discussion, this particular loss only lent itself to the rumours involving the team.  More questions were raised of the squad, and with the transfer deadline on the horizon, it was obvious there would be movement in Inter’s transfer window.  Sneijder, who has been a favourite target of papers everywhere, was again linked to a potential move even though he stated numerous times that he was staying.  The reports struck fear into the hearts of Interisti, and it galvanized the Italian fan base to make headlines by getting “Wesley Sneijder Stay” to be the top trend on Twitter in Italy.  In the end, Sneijder is still with Inter, just as he and the club said he would be.

Transfer deadline day did bring its share of new faces to Appiano Gentile, as well as farewells to some beloved figures.  In addition to Juan Jesus, who was signed early in January, Tuesday saw Fredy Guarin and Angelo Palombo sign loan deals with options to buy, from Porto and Sampdoria, respectively.  Guarin will be out roughly three weeks as he is recovering from injury, while Palombo has already made his debut in an Inter shirt during last night’s draw against Palermo.  Guarin will not be eligible for the updated Champions League roster due to his appearances with Porto in the competition, but Palombo has been named to the revised list that was submitted to UEFA last night.

With new players in, it is inevitable some are on their way out either as a loan, co-ownership deal, or a permanent transfer.  The following players have been transferred out, with their new club and type of deal in parenthesis:

  •  Emiliano Viviano (Palermo, Co-ownership)
  • Luca Caldirola (Brescia, Loan)
  • Phil Coutinho (Espanyol, Loan)*
  • Jonathan (Parma, Loan)
  • Sulley Muntari (Milan, Loan)
  • Thiago Motta (Paris St. Germain, Transfer)

*Coutinho has been loaned out so he can garner playing time to keep his spot in the Brazilian National Team that will be partaking in the London 2012 Olympics.

Interestingly enough, last night brought Viviano back to the San Siro in what turned out to be the barnburner of Serie A’s latest round of games.  Palermo paid a visit to Inter at the Giuseppe Meazza and the night was destined to go down as one of the more memorable matches in recent history.  With four matches being called off due to heavy snow, it was no surprise that the weather would be a factor in this game.  The ‘perfect storm’ was not only reflective in the weather, but also in the 90 minutes of play as the match ended in an entertaining, albeit frustrating 4 - 4 draw.

The pitch was covered with snow and ice, giving the perception that it was almost more appropriate for the players to wear skates instead of regular boots.  Viewer visibility was also an issue, as the yellow ball used was hard to decipher, as was Viviano himself due to his all white kit which made him blend with the snow.  As impressive as the aesthetics surrounding the match were, it only enhanced the drama unfolding on the field.  Normally players scoring a hat trick or more would guarantee a win for their team, but not last night.  Diego Milito scored four goals (the first ‘poker’ by an Interista since Christian Vieri in 2002) but his legendary effort was not enough.  Fabrizio Miccoli scored three goals himself, the last being the equalizer that broke the frozen Nerazzurri hearts in the 85th minute.

Between the extenuating circumstances and the heart being displayed by both sides, the match was a nonstop spectacle. The first half ended at 1 – 1, which saw Mantovani put the Sicilians ahead before ‘El Principe’ evened the score up with the first of his four goals.  No one could have predicted the flurry of second half goals that was only rivaled by the snow falling.  In a span of seventeen minutes, five goals were produced by Miccoli and Milito.  The entire match was a see saw of emotions and lead changes, until Inter unfortunately gave up the late Miccoli leveler that ultimately cost the Nerazzurri the full three points.

Despite the disappointment of giving up the lead so late, the next match is quickly approaching and the focus must now be on the away trip to the Olimpico to face Roma.  Besides Milito’s amazing performance, there are two other bright spots to be looked upon, and that was another start for Andrea Poli and the debut of Palombo.  Both had good nights, working hard in unfavourable conditions while contributing to moving the play up field.  Hopefully the integration of Poli, Palombo, and eventually Guarin will not only fill the void that Motta’s departure has left in the Inter midfield, but will provide even more versatility and strength.

Finally, a few words must be said regarding Thiago Motta and his transfer to PSG.  There is no doubt that he is a fantastic player and his departure will be a loss to the squad, both on and off the pitch.  In this situation, Inter were facing a double edged sword with whatever decision was made.  Only recently were people truly aware of what Motta brought to the team and some have criticized the management in not doing everything in their power to keep him.  At the same time, management would have also been criticized for giving a nearly 30 year old, ‘once a week’ type player the deal that PSG offered him.  The truth of the matter is that Motta did speak to President Massimo Moratti and asked him to let him go.  It was a very difficult decision, knowing how fond the President and club are of Motta and vice versa.  Marco Materazzi said Wednesday morning and it is a sentiment to be echoed: “Oggi un saluto ed un ringraziamento al mio amico Thiago! Sarà sempre uno del triplete!

Thiago, thank you for the wonderful memories you helped give to the club.  You will always be part of the historic Treble, always part of the legend and folklore that Interisti worldwide and I were fortunate to witness and share.  In bocca al lupo, mio amico; I wish you the very best.

 

A video highlighting Motta’s best moments in the Nerazzurri…

 

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