BOLOGNA - The wait. It seemed like it would never end, and we were all certainly getting a bit impatient. 14 March, 20 days ago. From one header to another. In the middle, there was a postponement, the international break and the interminable anticipation of Bologna vs. Inter, which was the final game of matchday 29. Nothing is ever out of the question, and there was always the fear that an extremely unwelcome surprise would ruin Easter. However, the Nerazzurri have ended the day smiling. Conte's men won, they took all three points and played with the utmost determination and will to fight and suffer. No, there was to be no surprise, only three points.
Romelu Lukaku resembled Christian Vieri in Fiorentina vs. Inter on Easter Saturday in 2002. The ball just had to go into the net; it didn’t matter how it got there. That was enough: 1-0, 20th league goal of the season, the seventh Inter player to score 20 in consecutive campaigns (after Giuseppe Meazza, Amedeo Amadei, Roberto Boninsegna, Mauro Icardi, Stefano Nyers and Christian Vieri). Handanovic was rarely tested in Inter’s ninth win on the spin. Yes, it ended Bologna 0-1 Inter.
Getting back into the swing of things after postponements, departures and absences – that was the remit. And doing so in Bologna, a very difficult place to play, made it a decidedly tricky ask. Mihajlovic’s side came out to play and gave Inter very little; they’re a team that knows how to defend and can hurt any side. Inter started with Ranocchia at the heart of the defence and Young on the left; Lukaku and Lautaro were selected up front in the hope that they could disrupt the Rossoblù backline. The game was complicated. It was difficult to escape the press, and dealing with Sinisa’s 4-3-2-1 often becomes a tactical battle where patience and astute thinking are required.
It wasn’t a particularly spectacular affair, and chances were at a premium. It was a tactical encounter, with both teams looking to figure one another out and not give anything away. Inter were never going to run away with it. Instead, they needed to interpret what was happening and make the most of any opportunities that came their way. As usual, Conte’s men worked hard. Barella and Hakimi sought to combine, with the team also doing their best to pick out Lukaku. Lautaro, meanwhile, was a lively figure up front as he looked to make his mark.
As previously mentioned, patience was needed, with Mihajlovic's men remaining attentive and more than holding their own early on. But then Inter struck, with the goal that decided the match coming in the 31st minute. It involved many cogs of the Inter machine, one which functions best when everybody contributes in both the defensive and attacking phases. Bastoni provided the impetus, breaking down the left and producing a cross that any winger would have been proud of. The Italian’s ball in was met by Romelu, whose header was somehow diverted onto the post by Ravaglia. However, our number 9 was able to bundle the ball into the net in an almost nonchalant fashion: 'Don’t worry, I’ve just scored' was the message.
It wasn’t a goal that really sparked the game into life, however. Indeed, Inter’s only other really big chance came at the start of the second half, when Lautaro let fly with his right foot and saw his effort come off the post. Neither goalkeeper was forced into making particularly notable saves: by the time the final whistle was blown, Inter and Bologna had had just two and three shots on target respectively.
With the Nerazzurri not firing on all cylinders in attack, they needed to show tenacity after the restart. The needed to remain alert tactically and, at the same time, make the most of every drop of energy that they had. Sanchez’s entry injected new life into Conte’s men, who started to push the Rossoblù back. Mihajlovic also introduced new faces in an attempt to get back into the match.
However, the Nerazzurri remained professional and compact. They never dropped off and kept going right up until the end. They dealt with whatever came their way and ran very few risks, showing spirit and determination to record their ninth consecutive win. And they don’t want to stop now. On Wednesday, Sassuolo will be the visitors to San Siro.
BOLOGNA (4-3-1-2): 34 Ravaglia; 14 Tomiyasu (29 De Silvestri 34'), 5 Soumaro, 23 Danilo, 35 Dijks (80 Juwara 80'); 30 Schouten, 8 Dominguez (32 Svanberg 69'), 11 Skov Olsen (7 Orsolini 80'); 21 Soriano; 10 Sansone (55 Vignato 69'), 99 Barrow.
Substitutes: 1 Da Costa, 16 Poli, 18 Baldursson, 16 Antov, 43 Faragò.
Coach: Sinisa Mihajlovic.
INTER (3-5-2): 1 Handanovic; 37 Skriniar, 13 Ranocchia, 95 Bastoni; 2 Hakimi, 23 Barella (8 Vecino 92'), 77 Brozovic, 24 Eriksen (5 Gagliardini 61'), 15 Young (36 Darmian 71'), ; 9 Lukaku, 10 Lautaro (7 Sanchez 71').
Substitutes: 27 Padelli, 97 Radu, 6 de Vrij, 12 Sensi, 22 Vidal, 99 Pinamonti.
Coach: Antonio Conte.
Goalscorer: 31' Lukaku (I)
Bookings: Soumaro (B), Ranocchia (I), De Silvestri (B), Vignato (B), Juwara (B), Brozovic (I), Bastoni (I), Gagliardini (I)
Added time: 3' - 3'.
Assistants: Fiorito, Galetto.
Fourth Official: Marinelli.
VAR: Di Paolo.
VAR Assistant: Passeri.