As recoveries go, this was an emphatic one from the champions. After a poor performance against Cagliari on Sunday, la Beneamata reminded everyone of their class with a swift dismissal of Napoli at the Giuseppe Meazza on Wednsday evening.
Without the injured Thiago Motta and everybody’s favourite defensive villain Marco Materazzi, the Nerazzurri put out a very strong squad for a potentially tricky tie against a Napoli side desperate to prove a point. They got off to the very best of starts when Samuel Eto’o scored within three minutes, scrambling the ball home after a Morgan De Sanctis handling error. Then, only minutes later, Diego Milito – who cannot seem to stop scoring – doubled the lead after an incredible run and assist from Douglas Maicon. The Brazilian certainly made amends for his poor showing on the weekend, and was probably the best player on the pitch, terrorising the Partenopei defence all evening and looking every inch the world-class player he has proven himself to be. It took Inter until 32 minutes to find another goal, and this one coming from a more unlikely figure in centre-back Lúcio, who headed past the goalkeeper from a Wesley Sneijder corner. Fortunately for Napoli, the champions did not keep up their scoring rate and late in the first half Ezequiel Lavezzi scored what would prove to be a mere consolation.
With José Mourinho banned from the touchline after his weekend sending off, it was once again left to Marco Branca to address the media. “We are satisfied with the team and especially with the way we started the match,” he said, “There was a bit of luck in there too, but we earned it with the right attitude. In the second half we focused on controlling the tempo instead.”
This quality performance from Inter is another point in a so far confusing season for the Nerazzurri. The team clearly have the ability to play well and attack with pace and style, but in certain games, like those against Bari and Cagliari, they seem unable to even create chances with largely the same personnel on the field as they had on Wednesday night. It also brings to question the performance against Barcelona where, at the risk of repetition, la Beneamata looked like a team that were scared of the Blaugrana – unwilling or unable to trouble a team that is not always as steadfast in defence as they are stellar in attack. If the consistency issue cannot be addressed it is possible that over the course of the season Inter’s bad days could come against tougher opposition (with all due respect to Bari and Cagliari) like Juventus or Roma and they will be made to pay a much higher price.
In other news, fans of the Nerazzurri must be worried this week as reports suggest that the brilliant, if exasperating, Mario Balotelli is being tracked by Barcelona, Arsenal and Chelsea. The starlet has often appeared to be irritated at the lack of first-team appearances he is getting, and these rumours will do little to settle him. It is vital that Inter can keep hold of the striker as he is one of the most talented young players in Europe and selling him would not only arm their rivals with a quality player, but also show a distinct lack of ambition. Not to mention the fact that he is Italian and a product of Inter’s youth system, something which will prove useful when UEFA’s stringent new laws on squad quotas come into force.
As José Mourinho was serving a touchline ban this week and is currently refusing to speak to the media, there was a possibility that Mourinho-watch would not have anything to report – but a very unlikely figured has emerged as its saviour. Luciano Moggi – a man who needs no introduction to fans of Calcio – has criticised the Portuguese Coach this week, and questioned whether Mourinho lacks mental strength. “A strong Mourinho would have looked at the mistakes of Orsato [the referee] with indifference, but the ‘Special One’ of today doesn’t feel sufficiently strong. He sees enemies everywhere” said the former Bianconeri director, “If you take a few points off Juve then you’ll see a different Mourinho entirely, the one who was almost indomitable last year, going crazy on television. Now he is almost enraged, sending Marco Branca in front of the microphones.” The best part of the interview, however, was when Moggi moved onto the subject of the Cagliari match, saying, “It has to have bothered him [Mourinho] having a penalty given against his side. He was used to not conceding one for 53 matches, and the foul that wasn’t clear has contributed to him going into a rage.” Say what you like about Signor Moggi, but there is no greater authority in Italy on the subject of penalties that are given for dubious fouls.
This weekend Inter travel to Genova to take on Sampdoria – a team who lost their perfect record on Wednesday to Fiorentina – and will be highly motivated to get themselves back on track straight away. There is no more dangerous opponent than a wounded one.
Inter Club Focus 2009/10
Another Scudetto for the Nerazzurri? – August 18, 2009
A stuttering start, and a Portuguese explosion – August 25, 2009
It’s derby time – August 28, 2009
A wonderful derby but the champions of Europe are waiting – September 1, 2009
All is well for la Beneamata – September 4, 2009
International week (Georgia-Italy, Italy-Bulgaria)
Friendlies, injuries and stolen boots… – September 7, 2009
Nerazzurri look to the future as Ibra looks back – September 11, 2009
Inter get a point, but that’s not the point – September 18, 2009
They never had a problem with ugly wins – September 22, 2009
Partenopei are beaten Black and Blue – September 25, 2009