The Nerazzurri beat Parma 5-2 at the Giuseppe Meazza in a game that lifted some of the pressure off Rafael Benitez. The three points see Inter move to fifth in the table now just seven points behind bitter rivals AC Milan.
Every game is a must win game for Rafael Benitez at the moment and the match against Parma was no different. Inter were missing key players for this match including the talismanic Samuel Eto’o who was suspended for three games after head butting Bostjan Cesar in the last league match at Chievo. The team therefore had an unfamiliar feel to it as Benitez employed a 4-2-3-1 with Davide Santon playing as an attacking midfielder and Goran Pandev being the lone striker.
The Inter fans had been very welcoming to Hernan Crespo as he returned to his old hunting ground although they may have wished they had not, as after only four minutes he had put the away side into the lead, however, Dejan Stankovic then scored two and Esteban Cambiasso one all in the space of five minutes to give Inter the upper hand. Crespo then netted again before half time to give Parma some hope but the second half saw Thiago Motta score before Stankovic completed his hat-trick.
Benitez called this a “crazy game” and he was right. Inter can take a lot from their attacking performance as the midfield worked hard to take the pressure off the beleaguered front line in producing the goals. All the goals were from the midfield and this is something that the Nerazzurri need to keep doing, even when Eto’o and Milito are back in the starting line up. Dejan Stankovic rolled back the years putting in a magnificent display, even though two of his goals were deflections it does not take away anything from his performance.
However, this seven goal thriller although looking like the perfect tonic may also have shown that Inter are defensively very light and dangerously fragile at the moment. Julio Cesar, Maicon, Christian Chivu and Walter Samuel are amongst the Nerazzurri wounded and so it was a very much a second string back line in place, however, the nature of this game made Inter look defensively light years away from where they had been last term.
The main offender for the Nerazzurri has been the ageing and forlorn figure of Marco Materazzi and he was again at fault this weekend. After only four minutes Materazzi was found wanting when his poor positional play found him ball watching whilst Crespo managed to get in front of him for the first goal. This was unfortunately not unusual for the World Cup winning defender as a similar lapse in concentration had given AC Milan a penalty in the derby earlier this month.
Parma’s second goal also asked big questions of the back line and in particular Materazzi again, this time a ball that had deflected off Lucio fell into his path, ‘Matrix’ then inexplicably attempted to pass the ball to Cambiasso which was almost impossible as Crespo was in the way, the ball went straight to the Parma hit man and he converted for his second of the game.
In recent weeks elements of Inter’s poor defending have been in the lime light whether it is Santon’s complacency for Chievo’s second goal last week, Luca Castellazzi’s lack of communication with his back four (that is made even more apparent with Benitez playing a high defensive line) or the lack of pace in general in any of the defensive players that have been available. One constant however, has been Materazzi who looks lost in these games, his technical ability has always been questioned but now he seems to have lost the positional sense and the desire to be able to make up for it. If defenders to not have good positional sense they can often make up for it if they have the pace to cover the ground when the problem is recognised and unfortunately for Materazzi he does not possess this.
Marco Branca needs to strengthen in January, the Nerazzurri this season have had their problems with injuries and whatever the cause of these it is painfully obvious that underneath the core sixteen lies a very old and outdated set of reserves. A 5-2 win at home to Parma will lift moral but it will not make these defensive problems disappear.