UDINE - Romele Lukaku’s finishing, Stefan de Vrij’s defending, saves from Daniele Padelli, Ashely Young’s workrate and the skills of Alexis Sanchez. We could go on forever in setting out the various ingredients of tonight’s away win, however, it was ultimately defined by hard work. It was two second-half goals that made the difference, with desire, ruthlessness and ability all playing their part. This is now the Nerazzurri’s ninth win in 11 away fixtures and proved to be 2-0 victory earned thanks to a solid team effort.
There were three Serie A debuts for Inter this evening, all coming in different positions. The first was was that of Padelli, who built on his two Coppa Italia appearances to replace an injured Handanovic between the sticks. Then there were Victor Moses and Christian Eriksen, who featured in the league for the first time after brief cameos against Fiorentina in the Coppa Italia on Wednesday.
Following that domestic cup win, Antonio Conte tonight presented a starting line-up missing both Brozovic and Lautaro Martinez, but with Eriksen playing in behind Lukaku and Sebastiano Esposito up top. This was the first time that the two had teamed up since Inter vs. Genoa at the end of last year. Meanwhile, Gotti’s Udinese stuck with their favoured 3-5-2, proving as usual to be a compact side capable on the counter, particularly through the likes of Fofana and Sema.
As for the initial action, Inter were straight on the front foot in search of an early goal - as has been the case often this season. In fact, it took just 25 seconds for Musso to be called into action, as the lively Esposito tried his luck. The Nerazzurri’s plan was to press high, exemplified by Matias Vecino who was a constant threat surging into the opposition’s final third. This tactic soon led to a strike from Eriksen, whose left-footed banger was just too central.
However, it wasn’t long before the home side began to wake up, with De Paul initially forcing a corner from Padelli before Fofana and Sema caused several problems for the Nerazzurri defence. This led to Moses taking up an increasingly defensive role, although he still set up Vecino in the 19th minute whose effort just snuck wide. With the breakthrough yet in sight, Inter’s defence remained strong - de Vrij’s presence proving magisterial throughout.
This didn’t stop Udinese nearly taking the lead before the break, however, as Young was forced into a last-ditch block to prevent Larsen Stryger Larsen from finding the bottom corner. This wasn’t the Englishman’s last contribution to the game, as he was a source of great solidity and experience for the entire 90 minutes.
After the restart, Esposito had another chance to break the deadlock, but the Italian youngster failed to properly connect with the ball after some great work by Young down the left. Inter looked bright early on as they looked to do damage to the opposition. The introductions of Brozovic and Sanchez gave a new lease of life to the Nerazzurri’s attacking play, with the Chilean seeing an effort deflect into the arms of Musso after he’d been found by Lukaku.
But Conte’s men would score the opener soon after: Brozovic played the ball to Barella, who in turn manage to pick out Lukaku. The Belgian striker then picked his spot perfectly, shooting through the legs of Nuytinck and past Musso into the far corner. Inter then began to push forward at will as Musso denied Lukaku and Vecino shot narrowly wide just seconds later. With 71 minutes on the clock, Sanchez was brought down in the box by the Udinese goalkeeper and Inter were awarded a penalty. Lukaku stepped up and calmly converted to score his 16th Serie A goal of the season. 2-0 down, Udinese tried to get back into the game, with De Paul but particularly Lasagna providing a constant threat. The latter came close on two occasions with his left foot but failed to hit the target both times.
Inter thus ran out 2-0 winners on their trip to Udine, meaning Conte’s men have now picked up 29 points from eleven away fixtures in Serie A. Together with Liverpool, the Nerazzurri are one of two sides in the Top Five European leagues that are yet to be beaten away from home. Inter now sit in second place on 51 points in the league ahead of the #DerbyMilano next week. After picking up a booking this evening, Bastoni will be missing through suspension.
UDINESE 0-2 INTER
UDINESE (3-5-2): 1 Musso; 50 Becao, 87 De Maio, 17 Nuytinck (8 Jajalo 72'); 19 Larsen, 6 Fofana (91 Teodorczyk 83'), 38 Mandragora, 10 De Paul, 12 Sema (77 Zeegelar 72'); 15 Lasagna, 7 Okaka.
Substitutes: 88 Nicolas, 27 Perisan, 5 Troost-Ekong, 11 Walace, 18 ter Avest, 30 Nestorovski.
Coach: Luca Gotti.
INTER (3-4-1-2): 27 Padelli; 37 Skriniar, 6 de Vrij, 95 Bastoni; 11 Moses (33 D'Ambrosio 83'), 8 Vecino, 23 Barella, 15 Young; 24 Eriksen (77 Brozovic 58'), 9 Lukaku, 30 Esposito (7 Sanchez 58').
Substitutes: 1 Handanovic, 35 Stankovic, 2 Godin, 13 Ranocchia, 18 Asamoah, 32 Agoumé, 34 Biraghi, 87 Candreva.
Coach: Antonio Conte.
Goalscorers: 64' Lukaku (I), 71' (pen.) Lukaku (I).
Bookings: Barella (I), Larsen (U), Bastoni (I), Musso (U), Lasagna (U).
Notes: Paolo Vanoli (I) booked.
Added time: 1', 3’.
Referee: Di Bello.
Assistants: Alassio, Valeriani.
Fourth Official: Piccinini.
VAR and Assistant VAR: Fabbri, Galetto.