Esteban Cambiasso’s 55th minute strike helped ease the pressure on his under-fire manager as well as confirming that his team would be competing in the latter stages of the Champions League. The performance on the night was worthy of taking all three points although FC Twente made it tough for the defending champions.
For the Nerazzurri it was an important night, rumours of Benitez having only two games to save his job had been rife and considering he had lost the first of these away at Chievo, the pressure truly was on. The home side showed signs of improvement and created chances straight from the start. Had it not been for the agility of FC Twente goalkeeper Nikolay Mihaylov, Inter could have been three of four goals up before the break. Throughout the game a continued advantage for Benitez was the re-emergence of the attacking duo of Wesley Sneijder and Goran Pandev, who looked much sharper than in previous games. This was down to Eto’o being pushed out onto the left whilst Pandev was allowed to operate in the centre. Jonathan Biabiany is also ever improving and showed again that his mixture of raw speed and superb touch is enabling him to shine as a ray of light in what is so far a very dark season for Inter.
This extra spark in the attacking third of the pitch has been greatly missed this season, and Samuel Eto’o has been relied on far too much to get the goals, especially with the lack of form and injury currently being endured by Diego Milito. Esteban Cambiasso was another example of exactly what made Inter champions last term, his endless running and precise passing made him a threat in attack as well as steadfast at the back, although at times he appeared to be the only one doing this. The Argentine was dictating the play in midfield controlling the rhythm with his passing and bringing players into the game. He stole the show when, as Sneijder’s second half free-kick pin-balled around in the box, Cambiasso was on hand to react quickly and get over the ball well, executing a fine half-volley into the bottom corner.
Rafael Benitez lives to fight another day as his team dug deep to pull out this important result, although the Nerazzurri are playing no where near their full potential. The same problems still keep appearing and the main one is the continued reliance on Samuel Eto’o. Taking all the unfortunate injuries Inter have accumulated aside, the squad is still good enough to compete in both the Champions League and Serie A. Even without Milito, Benitez has had Pandev, Biabiany, Sneijder and, until recently, Coutinho at his disposal. Biabiany and Coutinho have showed great potential but often seemed lost on the pitch, almost as if they feel like they have to do it all on their own, they can seem distant, almost as though they are not integrating with play. Pandev to has not been as much of a goal threat as he can be, and too often runs into blind alleys with little or no end product. This leaves Samuel Eto’o who at the start of the season when playing down the middle was devastating, however, under Mourinho he was told to ‘sacrifice’ himself for the team and play out on the left. He did this to good effect yet has maintained the tendencies to drift there too much now, and in doing so leaves a void in the middle, when he is told to play there, the same problem often emerges.
Another re-occurring problem is the lack of man-management from Benitez. He is playing the same formation as Jose Mourinho did with virtually the same players, so how can his team under perform so much when so little has changed? The comments that are coming out of the dressing room suggest his players support him, so why will they not perform for him? Mourinho, love him or loath him, gets the best out of players, he may not play attractive football but every single one of his men work for him and the team. This is something that Benitez lacks the ability to do. He cannot get his players to work hard enough for him. Tracking back they are poor, pressing up front they are poor and knowing when to close down they are poor. Benitez needs to assert himself more and let the players know what it is that is required under his tenure at the club.
Inter have no Eto’o due to suspension for the next three matches and Benitez will have to make sure his team work hard to fill the void.