LA SPEZIA – We knew it and we still know it: there’s still a lot of running and sweating to do, right until the very end. And yes, when you’ve watched Inter have 20 shots at goal (compared to one for the opposition), hit the woodwork twice and have two goals ruled out, there is a bit of regret. But it’s still another point on the board, one which extends the Nerazzurri’s advantage over second-place AC Milan, who lost to Sassuolo this evening, to ten points. It must be reiterated: every point needs to be won in a determined and attentive fashion.
Spezia had one shot throughout the match, and it came from Farias. After Handanovic had been caught off guard and beaten, it was one-way traffic for the rest of the game. Perisic levelled things up, after which Lautaro hit the post twice, chances came Lukaku’s way, Skriniar was denied from close range and two late Nerazzurri goals were ruled out. It finished 1-1; now, it’s time to focus on Verona on Sunday.
At the beginning of the evening, there was a single objective: three points to move closer to the set target. The Nerazzurri took to the pitch knowing that Spezia weren’t going to give an inch. And this proved to be the case, with Italiano’s men displaying the same courage that they’ve shown on many occasions at the Stadio Picco and, indeed, at San Siro earlier on in the season. Conte made just one change to the side that started against Napoli, with Perisic coming in to make his 200th Nerazzurri appearance in place of Darmian down the left flank.
The game began at a slow pace as Inter studied their opponents, for whom Ricco looked lively in the opening stages. The Nerazzurri opted to go down the wings on several occasions, with Hakimi doing plenty of running early on. But then came a blow on the twelve-minute mark: Farias came in from the left, let fly from the edge of the box and beat Handanovic, who will probably be thinking that he could have done better. It was further proof that this wasn’t a match to be taken for granted.
As was the case in Naples, Inter found themselves behind and needed to get back on track at all costs. Spezia had scored with their first shot, and it would be the only one they’d have all game. After going ahead, the hosts remained compact and were happy for Inter to have the ball. Conte’s men didn’t lose their composure and continued to probe as they looked to strike back.
They weren’t, however, forcing Provedel into making any particularly notable saves, with Lautaro having an effort that was deflected wide and Barella shooting off target from an excellent position. Nevertheless, the pressure was increasing, and it was Perisic and Hakimi, the two wing-backs, who combined to get Inter back on level terms. After escaping down the right, Hakimi played in a teasing ball that Perisic eventually tapped home. 1-1.
Reaching half-time on level terms was an advantage for Inter given they were able to focus purely on snatching a winner in the second half. However, Spezia defended well and the visitors were forced to attack with clarity and precision. Lautaro led from the front as he tried to pressurise the hosts’ high line throughout.
In fact, it wasn’t long before El Toro was denied by the post. Even though the tempo wasn’t particularly high, Conte’s side still went in search of a goal for most of the second half. Hakimi and Barella were notable threats down the right, while Perisic also very nearly snatched a second. It was then two mistakes from Spezia’s defence that nearly gifted Inter a winner, although Provedel was able to deny Lukaku.
Frustratingly, the build-up play was there but precision was lacking. Sanchez and Young soon entered the fray for one final push, while Lautaro subsequently struck the woodwork once again from long range. It was then Skriniar’s turn to test Provedel, who managed to keep out the defender’s effort right on the goal-line. It was then after 85 and 87 minutes that Inter finally found the back of the net through Lukaku and Lautaro respectively. However, the Nerazzurri were denied on both occasions due to tight offside decisions.
There was still time for a late assault, although Provedel was once again on hand to deny Lautaro in the 94th minute. It was a tough match all-round and a frustrating point after so many missed chances, but our ambition remains and our goal is still at hand.
SPEZIA (4-3-3): 94 Provedel; 21 Ferrer (69 Vignali 46'), 34 Ismaijli, 19 Terzi, 5 Marchizza (39 Dell'Orco 79'); 25 Maggiore (88 Sena 84'), 8 Ricci, 24 Estevez; 80 Agudelo, 91 Piccoli (9 Galabinov 62'), 17 Farias (11 Gyasi 79').
Substitutes: 1 Zoet, 4 Acampora, 10 Agoumé, 13 Capradossi, 22 Chabot, 26 Pobega, 31 Verde.
Coach: Vincenzo Italiano.
INTER (3-5-2): 1 Handanovic; 37 Skriniar, 6 de Vrij, 95 Bastoni; 2 Hakimi, 23 Barella, 77 Brozovic, 24 Eriksen (7 Sanchez 74'), 14 Perisic (15 Young 74'); 9 Lukaku, 10 Lautaro.
Substitutes: 27 Padelli, 97 Radu, 5 Gagliardini, 8 Vecino, 12 Sensi, 13 Ranocchia, 33 D'Ambrosio, 36 Darmian, 99 Pinamonti.
Coach: Antonio Conte.
Goalscorers: 12' Farias (S), 39' Perisic (I)
Bookings: Marchizza (S), Ricci (S)
Added time: 0' - 4'.
Assistants: Longo, Bottegoni.
Fourth Official: Volpi.
VAR Assistant: Giallatini.