UCL: O.Marseille 1-0 Inter: Season from Hell Continues for Nerazzurri
With AC Milan’s 4-0 win over Arsenal last week and Napoli’s 3-1 win against Chelsea on Tuesday night the flag of Italian football was truly flying high, so it was up to Inter to finish the job against Marseille and make it three out of three for calcio. This though, in reality just added extra pressure for our under fire coach Claudio Ranieri to get the right result, with the rumour mill and the world’s media claiming a loss in France would signal the end of his Inter career.
Despite this immense pressure on his shoulders and with Massimo Moratti, his son Angelomario and his nephew Angelo in the stands behind him watching every move and decision, he started the team with the slightly risky 4-3-1-2 formation. His starting lineup consisted of Julio Cesar in goal. Maicon, Lucio and Walter Samuel as you’d expect in defence with Cristian Chivu surprisingly taking Yuto Nagatomo’s place at left back. There was another surprise in the three-man midfield as alongside the obvious selections of Javier Zanetti and Esteban Cambiasso, Ranieri started the Serbian veteran Dejan Stankovic?!? No I don’t understand it either considering he had the in form Andrea Poli on the bench. Ahead of these Wesley Sneijder sat in his usual trequartista role behind Mauro Zarate (Yes yet another surprise starter!) and Diego Forlan who was making his Champions league debut for Inter.
As you can see this wasn’t the greatest lineup for Inter considering the players we’ve got available but it did manage to smash a record by being the oldest squad to ever grace a Champions league game with our average age on the pitch being nearly 32, this obviously isn’t an accolade that we’re proud of especially when you consider this season was meant to be about rejuvenating our squad.
OM kicked off the match and for the first ten minutes looked by far the more dangerous team, but as the half progressed Inter managed to gain a bit of control back and was looking far better than they have for the past four or five games, our defence was looking solid with both Cambiasso and Zarate dropping back throughout to help out, this was all well and good but once the ball was taken towards the opposition goal our attacks just fizzled out as over and over again Sneijder and Forlan were left stranded with nowhere to go and no obvious passes to make.
Zarate as usual kept hold of the ball too long on several occasions giving the Marseille defence time to take it away from him, and at one point he even managed to out trick himself which then gave Marseille the chance to counter attack. The one thing that did impress me with Zarate was his willingness to track back and help out the defence when needed, so for a change it’s not all bad for Mauro.
We did get a few chances at goal but we never really looked like we were going to put one away and a few times Forlan was caught out by the offside trap, luckily for us Marseille were even worse with their finishing and the majority of their shots ended up well off target.
The second half started with Nagatomo coming on instead of Maicon for the right back position as the Brazilian had picked up an injury to his right knee (This has now been diagnosed as a myotendinous strain in the pes anserinus area). To be fair to Yuto he did a great job in Maicon’s place in the second half making some adventurous runs up field and when he was called upon to do his defensive duty he looked very solid and made several crucial challenges, When he came on at half time Ranieri was heard to say to him “essere forte” which means ‘be strong’ and the small Japanese defender certainly was that.
The second half continued pretty much in the same way as the first with Marseille having the majority of possession but being unable to break Inter down, while the Nerazzurri tried their best to gain the advantage of the away goal without success despite several attempts that should have really hit the back of the net, like the free kick taken by Sneijder that was headed on by Forlan to Stankovic’s feet only for the Serb to over balance and instead of burying it in the back of the net he only managed to tap it at the keeper.
As the fourth official held up the board showing there would be three extra minutes added I was fairly satisfied that we were heading to the second leg with the score still level as before the match I had predicted a 1-1 draw which would have given us the away goal advantage but considering recent results any draw was a positive result in my opinion. This wasn’t meant to be though as with less than a minute to go Marseille won a corner from a fantastic save by Julio Cesar and in the dying seconds of the game Andrè Ayew took advantage of a mistake by Chivu and headed home the corner kick. Disaster for Inter, who when all is said and done more than deserved to take a draw from this game.
With yet another defeat under our belts making it five in a row the calls for Ranieri to be fired or resign are getting louder and louder, and as much as I agree that he shouldn’t be Inter’s head coach next season this result wasn’t his fault it was purely a case of bad luck. We also have to remember we’re not out of the Champions league yet as it’s only half time in this fixture and the Inter we know and love are more than capable of turning it around at the Giuseppe Meazza in a couple of weeks time.
Our biggest problem that needs resolving as soon as possible is our major lack of any creativity or even firepower at the business end of our formation, all our strikers are too similar in styles and we are severely lacking a creative forward like we had with Eto’o, Forlan is trying his best and although he played well in this match his age and lack of fitness are showing and he found it difficult to out pace the opposition to get in on goal, then of course we have Milito, Pazzini and Castaignos who all are box players and rely heavily on getting great service to be able to score.
This then brings us to Sneijder who is nowhere near the standard we know he’s capable of at the moment and in this game there were far too many passes from him that ended up with the opposition. Don’t get me wrong he’s still a world class player as was shown by some of his stunning pinpoint passes that he did manage but this season there seems to be a spark missing from him, in my opinion he needs another world-class player alongside him to really shine as was evident when he was playing with Eto’o in previous seasons. Still on the Sneijder subject his biggest flaw is one that isn’t helping Inter’s cause in the slightest, it’s the fact that he does not and will not chase balls and help out defensively, this in my opinion is critical to turning around Inter’s fortunes in games.
Finally I have got one major niggle with Ranieri and that’s his insistence to play players like Chivu and Stankovic who are either past their prime or know they are leaving soon so shouldn’t even be in the starting eleven, this has to change and he has to start showing some more faith in our youngsters as they are our future stars. On a positive Cambiasso was outstanding in this match both in defence and also trying to take the ball forward and for me he was the best player on the pitch.
Now we move on again to our next challenge in Serie A on Sunday evening when we travel to Naples to face Napoli and I hope we go in to this match with an ultra defensive mindset and I hope we can keep a clean sheet and play for a draw at least, otherwise their attacking trident of Cavani, Lavezzi and Hamsik will punish us.
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Posted on February 23, 2012, in UEFA Champions League and tagged Cambiasso, Cesar, Champions League, Chivu, Football, Forlan, Inter, Lucio, Maicon, Marseille, Moratti, Nagatomo, Nerazzurri, Obi, Ranieri, Samuel, Stankovic, Zanetti, Zarate. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.