SerieA: Inter 2-2 Catania, Is it too little too late for Ranieri?
The week 26 match against Catania at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza was being considered a last chance saloon for Claudio Ranieri and just to add more pressure to the Italian coach’s situation, earlier in the day the man most people are touting as his replacement, Andre Villas-Boas, was dismissed from Chelsea FC after an unconvincing season in the English Premier League.
Ranieri himself must have realised he really is close to losing his job as for this match he decided to return to his winning formula of the 4-4-2 formation, opting to put our under fire trequartista Wesley Sneijder on the bench instead of risking once again playing him behind the strikers. Also despite being called up to the initial squad, Claudio decided to play it safe and drop Maicon from the match squad completely as he is still feeling some discomfort in his knee that was injured in the Champions league match against Marseille.
This meant that Javier Zanetti and Yuto Nagatomo took up the full back positions either side of Lucio and Walter Samuel, this is all well and good apart from he started Zanetti as left back and Nagatomo in his weaker rightback position. This of course is from the coach that has publicly said in the past that he’s not convinced by Zanetti as left back?!? New boy Juan Jesus took a step towards making his debut but unfortunately spent the entire match on the bench, this was a disappointment to me as I’m looking forward to seeing what the Brazilian defender can do, and there were times during the match where a quicker defender would have been very useful for Inter.
The midfield and attacking players consisted of Marco Davide Faraoni, Esteban Cambiasso, Angelo Palombo, Diego Forlan, Diego Milito and Giampaolo Pazzini, which when the starting XI was announced I presumed meant that Ranieri was going to match Catania’s 4-3-3 like for like. What was I thinking? Of course he wasn’t, instead he stuck Forlan out on the left midfield, leaving our unconvincing pairing of Milito and Pazzini up front alone. Don’t get me wrong I’m a big fan of both strikers but they are far too similar in playing styles to play convincingly together, with them both making the same runs and thinking the same way about positioning I believe that if Ranieri played either one of them partnered with Forlan instead then we’d start to see a more dangerous front line at Inter.
From within the first five minutes Forlan was pushing forward searching hungrily for a goal with him trying time and time again to beat Catania’s Argentine goalkeeper Juan Pablo Carrizo and even when the Uruguayan sent in a lovely cross that Milito scissor kicked their keeper was there to block the shot. Shortly afterward Catania took the lead even though the majority of the possession had been with Inter, the Nerazzurri (like so many times before during this season) got caught out by an excellent counter attack when Pablo Barrientos sent a long range pass to Alejandro Gomez who should’ve been caught offside but was kept onside by Samuel, leaving him to cut past Nagatomo and beat Julio Cesar.
There were a few suspect refereeing decisions made during the match with a major one happening on the 24th minute when a pass in to the box intended for Milito was stopped by Nicolás Spolli’s stomach and arm. To be honest there were a few occasions during this match where penalty calls seemed to be dismissed by the ref which got me wondering whether the past calciopoli issues and recent statements made about giving penalties have made some referees scared to award them and possibly be accused of corruption, this is a sad situation that shouldn’t even be an issue but it’s something that needs to be addressed by the Italian football federation to change this culture of suspicion that seems to have arisen since 2006, anyway I’m not going to go in to that too much here.
Back down the other end of the pitch Barrientos wasted a golden opportunity to double the lead when a pass from Sergio Almiron found him alone in the area with just Julio Cesar to beat but I think he was shocked to realise he wasn’t offside and couldn’t get the decisive touch to beat Cesar. Then on the 38th minute came another refereeing blunder that meant Catania did double their lead, when Almiron passed to Gomez who then knocked it on to Giovanni Marchese, who was miles offside, leaving him to cross into Mariano Izco in front of the Inter goal leaving him the job of just tapping it in. To be honest I’m still fuming that the goal has still been allowed to stand despite the video evidence that shows Marchese at least five yards offside.
So the first half ended with Catania two goals in front and most of the Inter team looking their age and showing no obvious signs of a real comeback. During the half time break I wanted to see Ranieri take off Pazzini who had been extremely quiet in the first half, move Forlan to his position and bring on Juan Jesus to play the leftback position with Zanetti moving to rightback and Nagatomo taking up the left midfield but as usual Ranieri did his own thing and took off one of our bright youngsters to replace him with Sneijder.
I have to admit I was worried about this but I was wrong to doubt Wesley as he brought back a bit of tempo to the Inter squad and even though some players still didn’t seem to be on the same wavelength at times and of course, as always, Sneijder refused to take up any defensive duties I’ve finally realised that the Dutchman really isn’t a huge part of the problem. This match showed without doubt that the biggest problem is the fact that our aging team have all hit the downturn in their abilities at the same time and it is depressingly apparent now that players like Samuel, Cambiasso and even Zanetti aren’t the players they used to be and they need to step back now and make room for the new generation. I’m not saying they should not have any involvement what so ever but I am saying they shouldn’t be considered first team regulars for every game.
This was emphasised when at around the 60th minute Ranieri made a double substitution of both central midfielders Cambiasso and Palombo to replace them with youngsters Joel Obi and Andrea Poli. At this point I’d just like to make clear that the Interisti that jeered Cambiasso as he left the pitch should be ashamed of themselves for turning on one of our legends and making him cry, he really didn’t deserve that as he has always worked tirelessly for the good of Inter and even though he didn’t play to his best in this game he was by no means terrible. In my opinion there is never an excuse for fans giving verbal abuse to their own teams players, how can that possibly ever have a positive effect.
Anyway back to the game, with the fresh blood taking control in the center of the midfield Inter continued to press and I was impressed that they still looked determined to get the result despite being two goals down. Then in the 71st minute their persistence paid off when Forlan chested down a pass from Sneijder dribbled past Marco Motta and blasted a left footed shot that went in after ricocheting off Carrizo’s glove. Hope was back and Forlan had finally broken Inter’s goal drought.
As we knew would happen this returned Inter’s fighting spirit and confidence and now they weren’t going to accept another loss, the Forlan – Milito partnership struck again in the 80th minute when Forlan picked out Milito in the box and ‘El Principe’ blasted his right footed shot in to the top corner completing a comeback that didn’t seem possible at half time. The Nerazzurri wasn’t going to settle for a draw though as they kept up the pressure with Pazzini trying to break his own personal goal drought. Catania too hadn’t given up the fight and had a few more chances of their own denied by Julio Cesar.
Then in the dyeing minutes Pazzini had a fantastic chance as he controlled Obi’s pass just yards from the goalline but could only hit it straight at the keeper, this was shortly followed by a speculative effort from distance by Forlan but it wasn’t meant to be and the game ended as a well deserved and hard-fought 2-2 draw. This draw now sees Inter still in 7th place but just a point behind Roma with 37 points.
This was a fantastic result for Inter, yeah I know in any normal season this would be a disappointing scoreline against Catania in front of our home fans but in this season I’m happy with both the scoreline (despite not agreeing with Catania’s second goal standing) and more importantly with the character shown by the Inter players to come back from two behind.
My one huge criticism would be how painfully slow and unaware our centerbacks Lucio and Samuel were when called upon to defend and more than a couple of times during the second half Julio Cesar actually had to leave the area and play as a sweeper behind them to stop Catania’s counter attacks. This of course isn’t news to anyone except the Inter management who just don’t seem to see a need in strengthening our defensive line.
That brings me to my final point which is although Ranieri got a result of sorts in this match I honestly think it’s time he parted way with Inter as it is all too clear that he can’t see the bigger picture to revamp and rejuvenate the Inter squad. As you may remember at the start of this article I mentioned that Villas-Boas has been fired by Chelsea, and it is well known that Moratti would like him back in the Inter camp. The subject of who should replace Ranieri has been widely discussed on Twitter and like many Interisti my preference would be Pep Gaurdiola or even Zdeněk Zeman, though neither would be available until the summer. Villas-Boas on the other hand is available and although I think he’d do well a lot of people are unconvinced about his ability after his time in the Premier League so what I would propose is to replace Ranieri with AVB as a caretaker coach until the end of the season and see if he’s up to the job at Inter and then make the long-term decision when all the possibilities have been looked in to properly. Let’s face it he can’t do any worse than Ranieri and we’d know for definite if he has the potential to lead Inter back to glory.
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Posted on March 5, 2012, in Serie A and tagged Cesar, Faraoni, Football, Forlan, Gaurdiola, Inter, Lucio, Milito, Nagatomo, Nerazzurri, Obi, Palombo, Pazzini, Poli, Ranieri, Samuel, Serie A, Sneijder, Villas-Boas, Zanetti, Zeman. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.