Inter Milan finally back to winning ways
At long last, 11 games and more than two months, Inter Milan is back to winning ways. Against Bologna on Sunday, the Nerazzurri ended an inexplicably poor run; collapsing from first to fourth in the Serie A table.
Heading to December, Inter was the pacesetter in Italy. Dominant, intimidating, commanding. Similar to Manchester City and Barcelona in England and Spain respectively, they hadn't lost a domestic game. Juventus, Napoli and Roma could only stare in despair from underneath.
Luciano Spalletti's impact was instant and immense. His tactical mastery, coupled with superb man-management skills gave birth to a well-reformed and disciplined side. Mauro Icardi made sure goals was never the problem. Almost single-handedly, he had shoved his team's offensive workload with 16. At the other end, however, there was the impenetrable duo - Milan Skriniar and Miranda.
At this point, Nerazzurri faithful were in dreamland. Their team was atop the standings with 40 points. Almost twice the total of their money-crazy, San Siro co-tenants. Scudetto and Champions League nights were maturing into reality. There were mightily impressive wins over Roma and AC Milan, as well as results at Napoli and Juventus, further proving their credentials.
Suddenly, the table turned. Inter embarked on a pathetic nine-game winless streak after putting up a solid shift at Allianz Stadium. They needed penalties to see-off third-tier Pordenone in the Copa Italia. Three defeats on the bounce followed, including a shock cup exit at the hands of their rivals, AC. It didn't get any better in subsequent five matches, all ending in disappointing stalemates. Some acceptable; Roma and Fiorentina, but others against Crotone and SPAL, totally appalling.
Such form meant the Nerazzurri aimlessly slid back to familiar terrain; the Europa League zone. Napoli and Juve capitalised, who now sit 14 and 15 points clear respectively. Although his defence hasn't been entirely awful, Spalletti’s men were culpable in the final third. Icardi added just two goals before suffering a muscular problem at SPAL. Remove him from the equation, the Milanese side managed only three strikes since.
Despite Icardi's absence, Spalletti still stayed true to his tried and tested 4-2-3-1 formation, but with different personnel. Last week, Eder received the blessing to lead the line and did remarkably well. One week later, the Tuscan-born tactician had another surprise up his sleeves: teen French forward Yann Karamoh. He took less than two minutes to justify his manager's trust.
With the visitors yet to settle, Karamoh controlled a long ball on the right, picking out Marcelo Brozovic, who pulled it back from the byline for Eder to slot into the bottom left corner. It was Inter's fastest goal in Serie A since 2007. That lead, however, didn't last too long. Rodrigo Palacio stunned his former employers 23 minutes later.
But young Karamoh wasn't finished just yet. The 19-year-old played a one-two with Rafinha, then surged forward, beating two opponents before curling into the left side of the net. It was a massive goal, strong enough to relieve some weight off Spalletti’s shoulder.
To call the victory convincing will be utterly exaggerating. But many in the blue-clad half of Milan won't really care much.