Inter returned to Serie A action with a slender 2-1 victory over Sampdoria on Sunday night, reducing the gap on league leaders Juventus to six points.
Christian Eriksen fired an early warning shot when his tap-in was ruled out for an offside in the build-up, but the visitors would soon find themselves a goal down after Inter transitioned efficiently – with their front three combining majestically – to work the opening for Romelu Lukaku, who made no mistake from close range.
The Nerazzurri continued to dominate and after Antonio Candreva and Lukaku both went close, Lautaro Martinez scored his first goal in six games to double the hosts’ lead following more spellbinding combination play from Antonio Conte’s side.
Sampdoria pulled one back completely against the run of play through an instinctive Morten Thorsby finish, as Claudio Ranieri’s change in shape after the restart asked more questions of a comfortable Inter backline.
The visitors were impressive in the second period as Inter started to tire, but they weren’t able to find a late equaliser as Conte’s men held on for a 2-1 victory.
Key Talking Point
Wow. Now that was impressive. Lowly opposition, sure, but Inter simply tore Sampdoria apart in the opening period on Sunday night.
This was an Antonio Conte masterclass people, as the Nerazzurri were able to create all types of superiorities in every zone of the pitch to progress up the field, while the combination and transitional play on display was simply outstanding and straight off the training ground.
The Blucerchiati just couldn’t get near them as Inter’s fluid rotations and exploitation of the flanks bemused a disorganised Sampdoria defence. It was positional play at its finest.
Although an unconvincing second-half showing will raise some concerns, Inter’s scintillating performance in the opening period highlights that you’d be a fool to write them off in this Scudetto race.
Starting XI: Handanovic (6); Skriniar (8), De Vrij (6), Bastoni (7); Candreva (8), Barella (7), Gagliardini (5), Young (7); Eriksen (8*); Lukaku (7), Lautaro (7)
Subs: Moses (5), Biraghi (6), Valero (5), Sanchez (5)
Welcome to calcio, Christian Eriksen!
After struggling to find his feet in a deeper number eight role following his January arrival, Conte’s switch to a 3-4-1-2 has seen the creative Dane thrive; allowing him to function in a freer advanced midfield role.
It was vintage Eriksen in the first hour on Sunday, as he roamed between the lines looking to create overloads. The Dane’s ability to play off minimal touches was key in Inter’s rapid start; setting up Lukaku’s opener with a perfectly weighted first-time pass.
It was a shame his influence dwindled as the game wore on but nevertheless, an on-song Eriksen will certainly be pivotal in the Nerazzurri’s Scudetto assault.
Starting XI: Audero (6); Bereszynski (5), Yoshida (5), Colley (7); Thorsby (6), Bertolacci (5), Linetty (6), Jantko (5), Murru (4); Ramirez (5); La Gumina (6).
Subs: Depaoli (6), Leris (6), Bonazzoli (5), Vieira (6), Askildsen (6).
Inter are back in action on Wednesday night as they host Sassuolo before travelling to Parma on Sunday.
Relegation-battlers Sampdoria, meanwhile, travel to Champions League hunters Roma in the week before hosting Bologna at the weekend.