Article 65 — Inter Stuns Parma With A Late, Late Show
I don’t have fond memories of Inter playing at the Stadio Ennio Tardini. The best memory of playing the home team Parma in their home ground was when Inter beat them 2–0 in the 2007–08 season to clinch the Scudetto. Pre-game the commentator mentioned a statistic to validify my memories, Inter has only won 5 games there in their last 25 appearances.
Approaching this game, Inter had conceded a late equaliser to Sassuolo in the mid-week match to all but confirm our exit from the Serie A title race while Parma approached it in very good form. Since football has restarted, Inter has won once and drawn twice in three games across all competitions while Parma had drawn once and won once in two matches. The last Parma game was a resounding 4–1 thumping of Genoa.
This is how the match went:
The difference in the confidence levels of both teams was never more obvious in the first half and parts of the second half of this game. Inter were constantly troubled by the pace and ability to run with the ball of Gervinho and Dejan Kulusevski. Andreas Cornelius was also a handful as the focal point of the attack and behind the front three, there was Jasmin Kurtic and Juraj Kucka dictating play.
Danilo D’Ambrosio and Diego Godin were making their first starts in a long while. D’Ambrosio getting his chance as Milan Skriniar is suspended while Godin got his as part of the squad rotation policy. The rustiness of both players showed as they struggled to get to grips with Gervinho and Kulusevski respectively. Godin’s age and legs were beginning to show coming up against his much younger Swede opponent.
The goal Parma scored was a great one. A great crossfield pass by Kucka bypassed Inter’s defence and arrowed into Gervinho’s path. The Ivorian winger controlled the ball, sent Antonio Candreva sliding into the advertising board and placed his shot into the far bottom corner beyond Samir Handanovic off a slight deflection by D’Ambrosio. A great goal to score but once again poor defending by Inter. Candreva went to ground too early in desperation while D’Ambrosio didn’t get close enough to Gervinho.
Gervinho had one opportunity to score before actually scoring but Inter didn’t heed the warning given. After the goal, on a counter-attack, Gervinho killed two defenders, D’Ambrosio and Stefan de Vrij with one touch to get between them and attack the space ahead of him. He squared it for Cornelius who thankfully blazed his attempt over. The Dane Cornelius was a handful for De Vrij who also struggled to get the better of his adversary.
Inter had a lot of possession but a lot of it meaningless as we played at a monotonous pace without any urgency or intensity. Maybe the ploy was to pace ourselves considering the number of games we got to play over a short period of time. We nearly got back into the game when we finally fashioned out a good move only for Nicolo Barella to blaze his shot wide. We thought we had the opportunity to equalise when it seemed that Godin’s header had deflected a Parma player’s arm before heading out for the corner. However, Parma was saved when it was ruled that Godin was offside on the VAR.
At half-time, I just sat feeling despondent and helpless. I was not sure how the team could improve for the second half. I wasn’t sure of the options we had to come on from the bench. Not sure if they can make a difference. No-one was doing well in the first half for Inter. Parma could have extended their lead and we were lucky they didn’t.
In the second half, we improved and had better possession but we still lacked the urgency and intensity. Parma’s attacks were less frequent but still more dangerous than when we attacked. It’s s such a pity we lost Kulusevski to Juventus for next season. He looks like a really good player like the Pavel Nedved incarnate. Considering the similarity between the two, it’s perhaps apt that Kulusevski chose to join Juventus over us. There was a scary moment when he went down in the box after a challenge by Barella and Godin. Thankfully, a penalty was not awarded and it was not re-visited on VAR. Looking at the replays of that incident, it didn’t look very conclusive that he was tripped.
De Vrij had got to grips with Cornelius and Gervinho was less of a threat in the second half. Romelu Lukaku who looked tired in the first half was awakened for the second half. He had got into the game, doing well to hold the ball up for his team-mates to get involved.
The familiar tactic of crossing from the wings by Candreva and Cristiano Biraghi was read by the Parma defenders. The crosses were not dangerous either, some times wayward and sometimes cleared by the first defender. Lautaro Martinez was off his game and I was surprised that he lasted the full game. Christian Eriksen was invisible again, had no impact and was substituted for Alexis Sanchez.
Godin’s time was also up as he was substituted for the usual suspect when he is rotated, Alessandro Bastoni. Godin really looks like Nemanja Vidic of Inter now, in his last legs and struggling badly. The other substitutions were the usual and expected, Victor Moses for Candreva and Ashley Young for Biraghi. The final substitution was of Borja Valero for Martinez but that was done to see the game out. All substitutes were expected besides that of Sanchez for Eriksen.
Sanchez’s arrival brought greater verve in our play and attack. He had a stinging volley from long-range palmed away by Luigi Sepe in the Parma goal. We were now at least looking to get closer to scoring. Eriksen had an opportunity before he was substituted to equalise but pulled his shot wide. Lukaku too curled a shot from long range but the shot went wide.
We finally got the equaliser just when it looked hopeless. Ashley Young’s corner just about met Martinez who nodded it on for De Vrij to apply the finishing touch with his head. For some reason, that goal angered Kucka enough to get himself sent off for collecting two yellow cards. The second was for dissent towards the referee. That De Vrij goal and Kucka’s sending off felt like the pendulum had swung in our favour and we could now win this.
Moses finally delivered a good cross three minutes after Inter’s equaliser for another defender, the young Bastoni to head in the winner. Overall, Inter won ugly for a change. It was undeserved but much welcomed.
Conte has to work on his team psychologically to get them playing again like they used to. On paper, we have such a strong defensive unit and we proved that last season under Luciano Spalletti and the first half of this season but we have not kept a clean sheet since December 2019. That is far too long for a side with the ambitions of Inter. Far too long for an Antonio Conte side.
Eriksen looks like a signing we shouldn’t have made. Aside from the Sampdoria game where he ran the show for us, he has been invisible in our last two matches. Since signing, he has looked like a fake imitation of his former self at Tottenham Hotspur. Could it be that Conte’s system doesn’t favour a number 10 playmaker? It looks like that at the moment because the team looks like it lacks balance in centre midfield. Or could it be that he is lacking fitness to play many games over a short period of time?
We are desperately missing Marcelo Brozovic and Stefano Sensi in midfield to provide a bit of variety to the centre midfield layout and creativity. We are missing Matias Vecino too as an option for rotation and to offer something different to the other midfielders we have.
Victor Moses might have done well for Conte at Chelsea but doesn’t look good enough for Inter as did Valentino Lazaro before him. Antonio Candreva has been our best, most consistent option at right wing-back. Ashley Young has been our best winter signing aside from the error in the match against Sassuolo. I expected more from our youth product return, Cristiano Biraghi in terms of set-pieces and crosses and possibly an improvement in his performances under Conte’s tutelage after his time at Fiorentina last season. He has not quite delivered what I expected of him.
For some reason, unknown to me, Kwado Asamoah has found himself out of the team after returning from his injury. I felt he did well for us last season and this season before he got injured. Honestly, we didn’t need to sign Young with Asamoah around. It just looks like he is out of favour with the manager which is sad. It could also be a decision linked to his contract.
Romelu Lukaku looks tired playing so many matches in close succession. Lautaro Martinez looks like he has his head turned by the transfer speculation from Barcelona or is just off-form. Alexis Sanchez produced his best performance in his cameo as a substitute yesterday. His best performance in a long while. Young Sebastiano Esposito has not featured at all and this is a decision that again is linked to speculation around his contractual situation with Inter. In his appearances this season, he has brought his youthfulness and energy to the fore. He is still raw and looks like he needs a spell out on loan playing regular football but I really don’t want to see him get sold.
However, these issues surrounding the form of the team might not actually be related to the physical condition, formation, tactics and strategy of the team. Inter play the best when they play with intensity and at a quick tempo. A team cannot play at this level all season and there are times when we got to play with a measured approach. This is what Inter is failing to achieve to last the distance in a marathon like a league.
Confidence is low in the team and mentally the team is fragile. The players are less sharp and slower. It looks like they are weighed down by a ton of bricks and their legs are heavy. Contrast this to the start of the season until the Christmas break where every player whether first eleven or not looked in form and ready.
There is a video post on social media of Inter passing their way out from the back to the front against Barcelona in Nou Camp. That is the level this Inter is capable of when in full flow and in confidence. All that has sapped from this side. The issue is not tactical or physical, rather psychological. At the final whistle, Antonio Conte was like many of us, sunken in our seats breathing a sigh of relief. We have a very slim chance of winning the Scudetto now, with Atalanta breathing down our necks in such good form, can we hold our nerves to at least finish the season in third? If we can go higher, why not. Could we also win our last shot at a silverware, the Europa League? There are still more pages for the story to unravel.