Inter grind out an uninspiring win against lucky charms Partizan

Posted by Mike Whittaker

Rodrigo Palacio heads home Inter's late, late winner against Partizan BelgradeGettyImagesRodrigo Palacio heads home Inter's late, late winner against Partizan Belgrade

Inter's two encounters with Partizan in a UEFA campaign have resulted in Inter lifting the cup by the end of each competition.

Inter made it three out of three European competition wins on Thursday night against the Serbian side Partizan Belgrade. This will have come as no surprise to anyone, as the Nerazzurri were always the stand-out favourites to take the points against the inferior Eastern European side.

- Inter leave it late

The odds were against Partizan from before the kick off, as they have lost every European match they've played away from home since drawing with Lazio way back in 2004. They have only achieved one clean sheet in their last 12 European games, conceding 19 goals that time. So in truth it probably would've been harder for Inter to lose this game than to actually win it.

Inter's two previous encounters with Partizan in a European campaign have resulted in Inter lifting the cup by the end of each competition. With this 1-0 victory, both Inter and their fans will feel high in confidence to claim their fourth Europa league title (the previous three in the former UEFA Cup format).

The first Partizan clash came in the 1963/64 season when 'La Grande Inter' won the European Cup, and then again in 1990/91 when Giuseppe Bergomi led his team to lift the UEFA Cup. Of course, these stats are just a coincidence and this season's Inter have a long way to go before we can seriously talk about winning the Europa League trophy in Amsterdam.

The challenge facing Inter in this competition was evident during this match, once again making it as hard as possible on themselves to achieve the result on their home turf, leaving it until the 89th minute to break the deadlock.

For me there were far too many Inter players that just failed to make any sort of impression on the game, especially in the first half where there seemed to be no real rhythm in the squad's play and there was a distinct feeling that the team were just grinding it out without too much effort.

Two of the worst culprits were Matias Silvestre and, yet again, Jonathan, whom could have cost the team dearly with their poor positioning and defending. A prime example was when Silvestre gave away a freekick right at the edge of the area on the opposite side of the box to where he should've been positioned. All in all these two gave very mediocre performances.

There were positives in the game also with several players performing well regardless of the uninspiring flow of play. There were two real stars in the game, one was Samir Handanovic - with his outstanding goalkeeping abilities he managed to save Inter's blushes on several occasions. Watching him in Inter's goal reminds me a lot of the legendary Nerazzurri keeper Walter Zenga, and I hope he can be just as reliable as the 'Spiderman' for years to come.

Phillipe Coutinho was the other star of the day, once again looking to be the superstar we all know he can be. His ball control and change of pace when dribbling is just phenomenal, but he couldn't influence the game fully as he was subbed off at the half an hour mark, taking a knock to his ankle after a heavy tackle in the Partizan box. I can only hope the injury isn't serious and we can see him showing off his Brazilian flair in the upcoming league games.

The other players who I would say played well and did what were asked of them were the usual suspects - Juan Jesus, Esteban Cambiasso, Gaby Mudingayi and of course the ageless wonder himself Javier Zanetti.

I have to say though, I really don't feel confident of Inter's defence when Stramaccioni plays Cambiasso as a centreback like he did in the first half. I know he is completely capable in the position but it just never feels right, apart from that Cuchu did a great job as the captain and put in a good performance all round.

Juan Jesus, what can I say about this guy? He really is proving to be Inter's surprise package this season, with his consistently solid defending, and his ability to intelligently play the ball out of the defensive third, kick starting Inter's counter attacks. Who needs Lucio when you've got Jesus on your side?

Now halfway through this group stage Inter are sitting comfortably joint top of the table with seven points, and I can't see any reason why the Nerazzurri won't make it through to the knockout stages. That being said, Inter's trip to Belgrade in two weeks time could be a tough one, with them playing three league matches between now and then culminating with the crucial derby d'Italia. Stramaccioni's men know they need to stay focused and dig deep to continue this run of good results.

ESPN Conversations