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January 20, 2012

Coppa Italia Thur 19 Jan 2012

Inter Milan 2-1 Genoa

Camouflage…

There was a football match last night. Again. Honestly. Not that many will have noticed, wedged between another Clasico, the restarts of Serie A and the Bundesliga, a transfer window and Carlos Tevez. Inter hosted Genoa – creditable, 8th-placed, recent victors over Udinese Genoa. Inter took the game, 2-1, an identical scoreline to their Milanese neighbours (are you neighbours if you groundshare? Probably not) against Novara the night before. In everything else, though, Inter’s game was different. In fact, it was perfect.

Not hugely important, not massively successful or even particularly pleasing to watch, this match should be one of Ranieri’s happiest memories come next October when he’s sacked for not competing with Roma. This was football manager as pointillist painter. The little things mattered, even if in the end all that mattered were little things.

First off (and they were first off, subbed after an hour with the game won) were the boys. Ranieri gave starts to Obi, Poli, Castaignos, Faraoni and Ranocchia. The average age of those five is 20.8 years (by my maths, okay? Don’t be mean.) Not bad for a team that was beginning to resemble their superannuated neighbours. Can you be superannuated if you’re not technically retired? Probably not.  Of those young ‘uns, only Castaignos, the youngest and most in need of experience at this level, had anything less than a good game. His willingness and attacking intent were never in doubt; he just looked to take a touch where he will learn he’s not allowed. Like many teenagers.

Flagelllism…

The game had the perfect intensity for Inter’s lessons: not up against it, but not – as in so many cup games – not up against mannequins, either.  Much of that was down to Rossi and Kucka, and it was noticeable that Genoa’s thrusts down the left were neutered when Kevin Constant came on for the injured captain Rossi. Wesley Sneijder, who continued his comeback from injury with 80 minutes here, is no slouch, but if he covered the pitch like Rossi seems to then Pele would be refusing to talk to him by now. Sadly it Genoa were static up front, with Ze Eduardo and two noughts in Jorquera and Pratto doing too little until too late.

Much of the ease for Inter was due to controlling the game with early goals in each half. Maicon scored first, with a straight-leg shot across and over Lupatelli from outside the box. Poli effectively killed the tie after finishing a triangle with Obi in the Genoa box. To an extent, these goals masked a less than perfect showing from the veterans in defence. Zanetti was uncharacteristically lax with passing, Maicon struggled to get in the second half, and Cambiasso was nowhere near his performance in the Milan derby. The upshot? Well, Obi and Poli bailed them out a few times, and Ranocchia made a lovely intervention to prevent a breakaway that would have seen Inter’s entire defence stranded on the halfway line. So even their mistakes worked to their own advantage, in the long run.

If you want to be really Poli-anna-ish about it, Valter Birsa’s goal after 93  minutes would hardly be grumbled about. Inter’s run of not conceding (1 in 6, until this game) was punctured with a goal that meant nothing, in a secondary competition. Pressure relieved, with a harmless injection of the virus itself. Ranocchia-lation, as the doctor ordered.

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