TURIN – Traditionally, tea is drunk between 16:30 and 17:00. Right in the middle, at approximately 16:45, Lautaro Martinez, Alexis Sanchez and Achraf Hakimi sat on the pitch and mimicked preparing a drink. They laughed and took delight in what had just happened. This is our point of departure for today’s match report, with the trio celebrating one of the Nerazzurri’s best and perhaps most important goal of the season: a wonderful headed finish from El Toro against il Toro. It’s become a bit of a habit for the Argentine, who has found the net four times in four matches against the Granata. Some things are just meant to be…
A joyous end to a sunny but windy afternoon after a complicated match. But we knew that this was going to be the case. Inter didn’t play particularly brilliantly, but they managed to come away from the Stadio Olimpico Grande Torino with another three points. It’s the Nerazzurri’s eighth consecutive victory, and it was achieved thanks to Lukaku’s penalty and Lautaro’s extraordinary header in the second half. Everyone once again made a contribution, with Eriksen and Sanchez giving Inter that extra bit of spark after coming on. In the closing stages, Vecino, who’d been out since 9 July, also made an appearance. A great day when all is said and done.
Antonio Conte (who was serving a suspension, meaning Cristian Stellini stood in on the touchline) made one change to the side that beat Atalanta on Monday, with Gagliardini replacing Christian Eriksen in midfield. Torino, meanwhile, lined up with Verdi and Sanabria up front as Belotti started on the bench.
It was a match that went as expected: in their 3-5-2 formation, the Granata sat deep and remained compact, aiming to deprive Lukaku and Lautaro of space. Inter mostly looked to use the flanks to get in behind, with Barella and Hakimi showing some promising signs down the right. ‘Promising’ could be used to describe the Nerazzurri’s start too, as Lautaro had two good chances in the first seven minutes. In the fourth minute, he sent a header off target following some excellent work by Perisic; then, three minutes later, the Granata defence got in the way just as he was looking to pull the trigger from inside the box.
Was a Nerazzurri siege forthcoming? No, because the hosts steadied themselves, sitting deep, putting Bremer on Lukaku and trying to counter and find Verdi and Sanabria. The Granata remained focused despite seeing very little of the ball, and they almost took a shock lead. Indeed, Lyanco had a huge chance following a free kick played in from the left, with the Brazilian hitting the inside of the post with a header from close range. It was an opportunity that gave Torino a boost in confidence, and they began to put more moves together, especially towards the left side of the pitch. As for Inter, plenty of crosses were heading into the box, but they were struggling to create anything of note.
Inter were searching for a breakthrough, probing the opposition’s defence. The chance came after the 60th minute, just after Young and Eriksen had made their way onto the pitch. It was none other than the Dane who ignited the spark between Lautaro and Lukaku: the Belgian battled away, won the ball and played it to Lautaro, who was fouled by Izzo. The penalty was impeccably converted by Lukaku to make it 1-0. The Nerazzurri went after a second straight away, and it was their best move of the match: the inspiration came from Skrinar, Lautaro pulled the ball back and Hakimi hit it, but Sirigu saved with his feet.
The second goal hadn’t arrived and, incredibly, an equaliser came in the 70th minute: Sanabria found the net after a scramble following a corner. The final 20 minutes took a different turn for Inter, who were under pressure to find the goal while also not wanting to concede space to Zaza, who had just come on. Sanchez’s entry revitalised the Inter attack: the Chilean was the catalyst for all of the team's passes, dribbles and switches and gave the Nerazzurri energy. The goal came from an assist on his right, an arching ball which Lautaro headed in for a marvellous goal.
Inter were ahead again. It hadn’t been perfect, but Conte’s men were on their way to a crucial victory. The final few minutes saw Inter defend in a compact fashion: from Vecino to the monumental Skriniar, Torino were kept at bay. Eight victories in a row, 65 points!
TORINO (3-5-2): 39 Sirigu; 5 Izzo, 4 Lyanco, 3 Bremer; 27 Vojvoda (10 Gojak 89'), 8 Baselli (77 Linetty 49'), 38 Mandragora, 7 Lukic, 29 Murru (15 Ansaldi 67'); 24 Verdi (11 Zaza 67'), 19 Sanabria (9 Belotti 89').
Substitutes: 18 Ujkani, 32 Milinkovic-Savic, 13 Rodriguez, 26 Bonazzoli, 45 Ferigra, 99 Buongiorno.
Coach: Davide Nicola.
INTER (3-5-2): 1 Handanovic; 37 Skriniar, 6 de Vrij, 95 Bastoni; 2 Hakimi (36 Darmian 89'), 23 Barella, 77 Brozovic (7 Sanchez 81'), 5 Gagliardini (24 Eriksen 56'), 14 Perisic (15 Young 56'); 9 Lukaku, 10 Lautaro (8 Vecino 89').
Substitutes: 27 Padelli, 97 Radu, 11 Kolarov, 12 Sensi, 13 Ranocchia, 33 D'Ambrosio, 99 Pinamonti.
Coach: Cristian Stellini.
Goalscorers: 62' Lukaku (I) pen., 70' Sanabria (T), 85' Lautaro (I)
Bookings: Gagliardini (I)
Added time: 1' - 3'.
Assistants: Ranghetti, Lo Cicero.
Fourth Official: Di Martino.
VAR Assistant: Mondin.