Question – your side has had a pretty poor week in Europe’s premier football competition, failing to despatch a side you were heavily backed to beat, what do you do?
Answer – You play a side so scared to come to your stadium that they never have a real go at trying to breakdown your defences and stroll to three easy points.
This is exactly what happened on Saturday night at the San Siro, as Inter hosted Catania just a couple of hours after their closest Championship rivals, Sampdoria, had destroyed Bologna in a real show of strength. When Gianluca Atzori woke up on Sunday morning he should have been embarrassed at the absolute negativity of his tactics – it could have cost his side a valuable point towards Serie A salvation. A rookie coach in the top flight, Atzori will have studied how Dynamo Kiev tore into the Nerazzurri back-line, during the midweek Champions League game, and deserved to take all three points despite only leaving the stadium with one. For some reason however, he sent his charges into battle on Saturday night with the fear factor substituting a desire to take the game to their hosts. In England, the new buzz phrase for the way the Elefanti lined up is called “parking the bus”, but Atzori not only parked the bus, but he set up a fully fledged road-block to try to prevent Jose Mourinho’s men from breaching their defences. One of this season’s brightest starlets, Japanese striker Takayuki Morimoto might as well have pulled up a chair in the centre-circle pulled out a Sudoku puzzle and let the match take place around him, such was the ineffectiveness of the Sicilians offensive play. Andrea Campagnolo, making only his third appearance in the Catania goal, looked like a startled rabbit right from the beginning and, after 13 minutes, Atzori’s game-plan was in tatters, as Sulley Muntari sent an innocuous looking free-kick into the visitors’ penalty area, which deceived everyone to and nestled in the back of the net.
There are not many certainties in life but after seeing the hapless Campagnolo picking the ball out of the net, the probability of a home win stood at 100%. If the proverbial mortgage could not have been completely laid on an Inter Milan win after Muntari’s opener, then after 31 minutes it was certainly safe to do so, as Wesley Sneijder rifled home a wonderful free-kick to put the game to bed, Atzori looked like a lost man as he consulted his technical staff, planning his next move. As the second-half started, finally Catania’s most talented player, Giuseppe Mascara, entered the fray. To see him sat on the bench during the opening 45 minutes was a travesty in itself and now he was on when the game was already out of reach. To their credit, the Sicilians improved during the second period but the hosts were always playing in second gear, contemplating some tough matches ahead both domestically and in Europe. When Mascara converted a penalty six minutes from time, a small justice had been done, the little magician deserves more than the squad he is playing in at the moment. As referee Giannoccaro blew for time, Atzori got what his negative tactics deserved – it is surely just a matter of time before President Antonio Pulvirenti, who had a face of thunder during the closing stages, looks for a more experienced tactician to keep his team in the top flight. A special mention must also go out to Nerazzurri stalwart Javier Zannetti, who was making his 139th consecutive appearance for his club on Saturday night. What a tribute to his drive and desire to lead from the front, something Catania tifosi can only dream about as they contemplate a long and arduous season.
Serie A analysis
Milan, a tale of one city, Roma, the same old problems– August 24, 2009
José’s derby day delight, Diego tames the Roman gladiators– August 31, 2009
Chiellini fires Juve to the top, Genoa respond in style– September 14, 2009
Top spot for a resurgent Samp, Totti leads from the front again– September 21, 2009
Two tales of one city– September 25, 2009
Will the real Viola please reveal themselves, Inter fall in Genoa– September 28, 2009
Inter go clear as Juve and Fiorentina play out entertaining draw– October 19, 2009