BERGAMO - There was no recount or controversy surrounding Sunday’s eagerly-anticipated result, even if it is was a fierce contest between two teams throughout. Lautaro Martinez was a leading light for the visitors and very much sought to inspire victory through a lively and energetic performance. Unsurprisingly, it was him who opened the scoring in the 59th minute, before Sportiello then stopped Inter nicking a second soon after thanks to a superb double save. It was then Atalanta’s turn to kick it up a gear, and they found their equaliser through Miranchuk on his Serie A debut. During a combative affair, Inter never gave up an inch and gave their all up until the final whistle. Ultimately, this wasn’t enough and the away side left with a point following a 1-1 draw.
Keen to put European losses behind them, Inter were fully determined ahead of Sunday’s clash with Atalanta. However, this ambition was not reflected during a slow first-half performance, during which neither side were able to land a killer blow. There was plenty of possession for the Nerazzurri and some notable ideas, yet no real breakthrough. Lautaro was the most active member of the Nerazzurri, and he forced a superb intervention from Romero in the eighth minute. El Toro often enjoyed positive link-up play with Alexis, while Vidal also provided a spark in keeping the Atalanta defence pinned back. It was his header in the 24th minute that was the away side’s best chance of the first half.
As for the hosts, they also enjoyed a large chunk of possession and were reliant on the creative instincts of Gomez, Hateboer and Serie A debutant Ruggeri. However, Handanovic was only called into action on one occasion as he clawed away Freuler's cross from under the bar.
It was a strange encounter, because these two teams had found the net 32 times between them over the first six matchdays and yet both had barely conjured up an effort at goal. A bit of inspiration was needed, and this came through Ashley Young, who had previously been a thorn in Atalanta’s side at the Gewiss Stadium in August. In the 58th minute, the Englishman produced a wonderful cross from the left and Lautaro was there to expertly guide the ball into the net with his head. The Nerazzurri’s fourth headed goal of the season was one which Conte’s men were very much grateful for, and suddenly, with the wind in their sails, Inter had that bit of spark in attack.
Young came close to repeating the same feat he achieved on 1 August. This time, however, the ball went wide. Following this, Lautaro sent Vidal through on goal, but Sportiello showed wonderful reflexes to deny the Chilean and then Barella on the rebound. Inter had built up a head of steam but hadn’t been able to put the game to bed, and this was down to the Atalanta goalkeeper’s heroics. With the match gradually coming to an end, the substitutions made by the coaches increased the tempo of the game, bringing it to life. And it was ultimately a substitute who brought the hosts level, with Miranchuk firing home from the edge of the box in the 79th minute on his first Serie A appearance.
The goal resulted in a shift of momentum, and, from that point on, Atalanta were in the ascendency, with Muriel nodding inches wide with five minutes to go. Inter, meanwhile, dug in and defended well as a unit, although they had neither the ideas nor the energy to mount a final assault despite Lukaku’s late attempt.
ATALANTA (3-4-2-1): 57 Sportiello; 19 Djimsiti, 17 Romero, 2 Toloi (9 Muriel 73'); 33 Hateboer, 11 Freuler, 88 Pasalic ( 32 Pessina 59'), 40 Ruggeri (26 Mojica 90'); 10 Gomez, 18 Malinovskyi (59 Miranchuk 59'); 91 Zapata (7 Lammers 73').
Substitutes: 31 Rossi, 95 Gollini, 4 Sutalo, 27 De Paoli, 42 Scalvini, 72 Ilicic, 79 Diallo.
Coach: Gian Piero Gasperini.
INTER (3-4-1-2): 1 Handanovic; 37 Skriniar, 6 de Vrij, 95 Bastoni; 36 Darmian (2 Hakimi 83'), 77 Brozovic, 22 Vidal (5 Gagliardini 70'), 15 Young (33 D'Ambrosio 83'); 23 Barella; 7 Sanchez (9 Lukaku 74'), 10 Lautaro (14 Perisic 74').
Substitutes: 35 Stankovic, 97 Radu, 2 Hakimi, 24 Eriksen, 33 D'Ambrosio, 42 Moretti, 44 Nainggolan, 99 Pinamonti.
Coach: Antonio Conte.
Goalscorers: 58' Lautaro (I), 79' Miranchuk (A)
Bookings: Lautaro (I), Djimsiti (A), de Vrij (I), Vidal (I)
Added time: 0' - 3'
Assistants: Longo, Del Giovane.
Fourth Official: Ghersini.
VAR Assistant: Lo Cicero (in place of Bindoni).