The nature in which Inter progressed to the Club World Cup Final last night was with consummate ease and seemingly little effort. Seongnam were dispatched 3-0 which brought delight to Massimo Moratti and relief to Rafael Benitez.
The game itself had a muted atmosphere, other than a small group of travelling Inter fans nothing could be heard for most of the game. This gave the match a feel of a pre-season friendly and whether this was due to the heat or the quality of the opposition the tempo also was unfortunately slow. The first minute threw up a moment of misery followed by a moment of joy for the Nerazzurri as Wesley Sneijder went down with a suspected hamstring injury. This was a nightmare Benitez who just can’t seem to get a fully fit squad together at the moment. As Sneijder was limping down the tunnel he would have heard a cheer as from the restart Samuel Eto’o’s pass was flicked on by Diego Milito for Dejan Stankovic to gently stroke passed the goalkeepers left. The second goal was a superb one curtsey of Javier Zanetti who scored his first goal in three years. After receiving a superb back heel from Milito he smashed the ball into the bottom corner with the outside of his foot. This effectively killed the game and although some poor Inter defending allowed Seongnam chances there was no threat of a come back, and this was certainly confirmed when Milito tapped in from close range 17 minutes from time.
Inter’s performance was competent and there was certainly an improvement from recent games, however, the quality of the opposition has to be taken into account as they looked extremely poor. The Asian Champions League holders failed to make any inroads when attacking the Nerazzurri and only looked dangerous from set pieces. It should be noted that from these corners and free kicks they did cause some problems and this showed a worrying trend that has started to creep into Inter’s play this year. Radoncic’s header had forced a save from Julio Cesar, the Seongnam player was totally unmarked and it was reminiscent of the marking against Werder Bremen. Byung Kuk also gave Inter a scare as his header clipped the cross bar, whilst Molina was unlucky not to convert one of his free kicks. The best chance for the Koreans came late on when Ognenovski saw Julio Cesar parry his free kick straight into the path of Radoncic who unbelievably shot wide. The question has to be asked, that if this was against a better standard of opposition then would these defensive frailties have been punished?
Reaction to the game was incredibly bullish as it seemed every player had a lot to say about this victory. It has been no secret that Moratti has been desperate to get his hands on the prestigious trophy and that Benitez’s job depends on it, so this along with the pressure the players were feeling possibly goes someway to explain the over exuberance.
Moratti chose to complement Benitez saying that “He did a great job in preparing the approach to the game. I saw him looking very concentrated along with the players.” The Spaniards fate will still hang in the balance whether Inter win this tournament or not, therefore every comment his President makes seemed riddled with false hope.
Benitez continued along his line of personal defence trying to convince everyone that it will be okay once his injury problems are over stating “Perhaps we were lacking a little sharpness, but we will improve. Diego is important for us and represents a great reference point in attack. We knew that with Milito we’d be more dangerous.”
Whilst Javier Zanetti, Dejan Stankovic and Thiago Motta all waxed lyrical about the performance and the work rate, it is positive to see that the mood in the camp is improved. However, even if the Nerazzurri win on Saturday against the Congolese side Mazembe and lift the trophy, they are still 13 points behind Milan in the league so far and need to transport any form they have into the fixtures after the winter break. The big question should be win or loose would Moratti be best sacking Benitez regardless and giving his team a new start under a new coach in the New Year?