When Sampdoria come to town it is rarely an easy game, however, Inter were confident that they could come away victorious.
A controversial goal from Stefano Guberti looked to have given the away side all three points before Samuel Eto’o levelled the game with his 13th goal in 10 games.
Even though Inter had beaten Tottenham in mid-week the final score and the nature of the second half saw them approach this match as if they needed a response. The starting line up was a familiar one, Julio Cesar started in goal with the back four consisting of Maicon, Lucio, Walter Samuel and Christian Chivu, the holding midfielders were Captain Javier Zanetti and Esteban Cambiasso who returned from injury and Wesley Sneijder played his usual role behind Samuel Eto’o, Philippe Coutinho and Jonathan Ludovic Biabiany.
The game itself started well for the home side when Philippe Coutinho managed to supply Lucio whose shot was well saved by Gianluca Curci. At the other end Antonio Cassano and Guberti were starting to look like they could cause problems and this was soon evident as Guberti created a chance for Giampaolo Pazzini but his back heel was easily saved by Cesar.
Coutinho was finding his feet for the Nerazzurri and the young Brazilian unleashed a shot just after the half hour mark that forced another good save from Curci and Eto’o was not accurate enough to convert the rebound.
In the second period Sampdoria were straight on the back foot as Inter moved up a gear and this almost led to the first goal of the game when Luciano Zauri produced a superb goal line clearance from Maicon to keep his team in the game.
It was Sampdoria who drew first blood on 64 minutes when Cassano took the ball off Chivu, there were suggestions that this was a foul but the referee seemed happy for play to go on, Cassano then crossed for Guberti whose volley was saved by Cesar but the ball continued to spin up and over the helpless keeper into the goal.
Inter were stunned but also it seemed aggrieved and this resulted in a full on assault on the Sampdoria goal. In the midst of this Sampdoria goalkeeper Curci was taken off for what seemed to be a hamstring problem, he was replaced by Junior Da Costa.
A minute and a half later and the Nerazzurri were celebrating. Coutinho’s clever cross found Eto’o who managed to stretch and poke the ball past the debutant keeper, it seemed once again the Cameroonian had saved Inters blushes.
For the rest of the game Inter continued to attack but to no avail, Maicon missed the best chance in the final minutes when he headed wide and the game finished in a draw.
Inter are now four points adrift from Lazio and Rafael Benitez thinks that with a different referee things would be very different, “Then we conceded this goal where Cassano fouled Chivu in the build-up. You could see that he looked at the linesman, because he knew it was a foul. This complicated our game. Today the referee did not do a good job.” The Spaniard complained. However, Benitez did find time to complement his teams character noting that, “Italian sides are tactically very strong indeed, so it’s tougher to score against them. Besides, injuries to Diego Milito and Goran Pandev don’t help. When everyone will be fully fit, it will make things much easier. I am happy with the way the team reacted after going a goal down. The side showed character.”
The main positive from an Inter perspective was the level of performance shown by Coutinho, the little Brazilian had an industrious and eye catching game, Benitez commented that, “He only lacks a little physique. He only missed out on finishing the game because of the knocks he took.” Coutinho also took time to tell of how he is settling into Serie A saying that, “It was a difficult game. I have also picked up a couple of knocks. It’s a different kind of football to that in Brazil, but I am starting to understand the tactical movements. I am certain that the first goal will be important, but it will arrive soon.”
Inter travel to Genoa on Friday and will certainly be looking to pick up all three points. The Nerazzurri have been plagued with injuries this term but have continued to dig deep and grind out results, although not always pretty this will stand them in good stead in the latter half of the season when players start to return and/or Benitez has strengthened in January.