It was a cold, dreary, Monday night in Milano. The temperature dropped while rain fell continuously over the Giuseppe Meazza. After a lackluster start to 2014, the weather mirrored the temperament of Interisti the world over.
Two losses within a week had brought to light the stark reality that Inter are in a season of transition. With Chievo Verona visiting in the last match of round 19, the Nerazzurri were hoping that this would be the match to jumpstart the year.
Official Lineups from the Inter site:
INTER (3-5-1-1): Handanovic; Campagnaro (Botta 88), Rolando, Juan Jesus; Jonathan, Kuzmanovic (Taider 84), Cambiasso (Milito 64), Nagatomo; Alvarez, Kovacic; Palacio
Unused substitutes: Carrizo, Castellazzi, Zanetti, Andreolli, Mudingayi, Ranocchia, Samuel
Coach: Walter Mazzarri
CHIEVO (3-5-2): Puggioni; Dainelli, Radovanovic, Bentivoglio (Mbaye 84), Cesar, Sardo, Frey, Paloschi (Estigarribia 75), Hetemaj, Thereau, Dramé
Unused substitutes: Squizzi, Silvestri, Bernardini, Claiton, Kupisz, Lazarevic, Sestu, Pamic, Acosty, Pellissier
Coach: Eugenio Corini
Referees: Tommasi, Giachero, De Pinto, Tasso, Russo, Baracani
Under the watchful eye of honorary president Massimo Moratti, Inter took to the field with hopes of shaking off the cobwebs and turning their fortunes around.
The Nerazzurri started the match decidedly better than the previous week, as they held possession and went forward with purpose. Their work was all for naught, as Paloschi took advantage of a mistake in the Inter defense and struck the ball over Handanovic's head and into the back of the net in the 8th minute of play. It was a comedy of errors for the backline (Editor's Note- sans Ranocchia) once again, as no one was able to deal with or clear the ball that led to Chievo's goal.
The lead did not last long, as Inter went right back to attacking to try to find the equalizer. The home fans had to wait not even five minutes before the score was tied at 1-1. Campagnaro and Kuzmanovic did well to keep the ball in the final third of the pitch and when Ricky Alvarez was able to make his foray into the right side of the penalty area, he found Yuto Nagatomo to even the score line in the 12th minute of play.
There was controversy in the next minute of play, as Inter had a goal incorrectly ruled out for offside. Nagatomo seemingly scored a brace within a span of 60 seconds, but the linesman raised the flag to the dismay and despair to everyone in the stadium. As you can clearly see in the image below, Nagatomo was, if anything, onside.
The rest of the first half consisted of Inter attacking to no avail, but this display was better than the effort shown in the prior seven days to Monday's match. Things got a little testy right before halftime, as Hetemaj fouled Kuzmanovic hard and received a yellow for his efforts. Kovacic was cautioned on the other side of the field as he showed some studs on a foul. Rodrigo Palacio was brought down on the far touchline, but no foul was given at all.
Referee Tommasi called the first half at 45 minutes with no injury time awarded and both sides went in tied at 1-1.
The second half was much more toned down than the first, with Inter holding possession. Unfortunately, this did not translate into a goal. Chievo had chances on the counter by Thereau, but nothing came close to truly threatening Handanovic's goal.
Diego Milito entered the fray in the 64th minute, replacing Esteban Cambiasso on the pitch while donning the captain's armband. After il Principe entered, Palacio dropped back to his more natural second striker position while Milito took over main striker duties. The threat of Milito opened up the Chievo defense a bit more, as he drew more defenders which left some of his teammates unguarded in the area. Alvarez forced a save in the 70th minute due to Milito's presence and ball work.
While Inter were in Chievo's final third for a good portion of the final 20 minutes, they were still suffering from the inability to pull the trigger for the shot at goal. The slippery surface may have caused some of the slipping and scuffed shots that players attempted, but it does not explain the failure to find a clear shot. This was also seen in the match against Lazio, and Inter cannot wait to try to find the perfect pass or opportunity.
The fourth official signaled for four minutes of added time and controversy reared its head once again as the teams played into the 94th minute. Just as the clock was ticking down, Inter attacked for the last time and while in the Chievo penalty box, Palacio went down followed successively by Ruben Botta. It was clear that Botta had been kicked or fouled in the box, but the referee did not call it and instead, whistled for full time. The match ended 1-1.
Chievo player in the process of fouling Botta
While refereeing decisions do not excuse the poor play, it does have a great bearing on the outcome of a match. Does the display shown negate fact that Nagatomo's second goal should have stood? No. Does it negate the fact that Botta was kicked in the penalty area and should have had a penalty? No.
Alas, 19 rounds into the season and Inter still have not had a penalty called. To add insult to injury, referees also took a good goal off the board. The lack of correct refereeing decisions is becoming not only disconcerting and frustrating, but tired and repetitive. Had Nagatomo's goal stood, everyone would be discussing a 2-1 win, despite another mediocre performance.
INTER 1 - 1 CHIEVO
First half: Paloschi 8', Nagatomo 12',
Second half: N/A