Tactics and controversy cost Inter important points

Posted by Mike Whittaker

Claudio Villa/Getty ImagesInter manager Andrea Stramaccioni shouts at the referee during Sunday's 2-2 draw versus Cagliari.

Just a week after Inter fell to defeat at Atalanta, Juventus gave the Nerazzurri a perfect opportunity to close the gap to just two points following their 0-0 draw to Lazio. Week 12 of the 2012/13 Serie A season had Inter facing Cagliari, and hopes were high around the Giuseppe Meazza for a dominant home win for the Nerazzurri.

Those high hopes did not to come to fruition as they were held to a 2-2 draw, which in fairness to the visitors could've very easily have been another defeat if not for some excellent goalkeeping by Samir Handanovic in the first half.

So what went wrong for Inter?

On paper, Cagliari shouldn't have stood a chance against the 18-time Scudetto winners. Every single one of the Nerazzurri players is of a much higher quality than their counterparts in the Sardinian side, but at numerous times during the match the Inter players looked a shadow of the squad that beat Juventus just two weeks ago.

Up until Inter's first goal, they ran rings around the Cagliari, showing great positioning, movement off the ball and passing. But then after Rodrigo Palacio's goal, the entire squad seemed to switch off for the remainder of the first half. This gave Cagliari ample opportunity to probe and test the Inter defence, eventually finding a weakness for diagonal balls from Andrea Cossu on the left flank. All it took was a few attempts and the visitors were rewarded for their tenacity, drawing level before half time.

During this time, Cagliari also figured out how best to deal with Inter's counter-attacking play, stopping the home side from creating many dangerous situations. This brings me to what I feel was the main cause of Inter's trouble in this game, and probably most of the home games this season which have seen the Nerazzurri struggle in their own backyard.

Why are Inter playing counter-attacking football in their own stadium? Against a smaller team like Cagliari especially, they should be taking the game to the visitors and pushing them to make the mistakes, not allowing them space and time to build up attacks while the Inter squad look for ways to catch them on the break. This tactic has been fantastic when Inter are on the road, serving the team well in that situation, but at home the Nerazzurri should be showing all that come to the Giuseppe Meazza why they are considered one of the best teams in the league.

Unfortunately, the main person responsible for this has to be Andrea Stramaccioni. I'm not going to push the point too much, as I am a huge fan of the young coach, but this is a prime example of his inexperience. In fairness to him, I do think he realised his mistake later on in the game when he brought on Philippe Coutinho and Ricky Alvarez to increase the attacking potency of his lineup, which soon afterwards led to Inter drawing level at 2-2.

The change came too late however, and despite the Nerazzurri looking much more effective with these changes in place, there just wasn't time left in the match to take the win. As well as a lack of time to secure the three points, a controversial decision by the referee in the dying minutes of the match had an impact on the result, refusing Inter a penalty when Andrea Ranocchia was brought down on the edge of the area as a Cagliari defender went right through the Ranocchia to clear the ball.

Some might argue that the incident happened just outside the area -- to be fair it may well have been -- but the referee didn't even give a free kick, allowing the play to continue after the blatant foul. This incensed Stramaccioni so much that he was sent off for arguing the point with the officials, leaving his team to play out the remainder of the match without their coach on the sidelines.
The bad refereeing call in this game, combined with the ones in Inter's last two league games against Juventus and Atalanta, have frustrated the Nerazzurri management so much that after this latest game, they refused to participate in the post-match press conference and issued a press silence.

I can't say I blame the management for doing this as the amount of dubious decisions by referees in Serie A this season have been ridiculous, and it's about time something was done about the substandard officials in these games. Despite the controversy, all in all this was a disappointing match for the Nerazzurri that should've been a comfortable victory; but some bad tactical decisions cost the team dearly, leaving them still four points behind the league leader.

Hopefully lessons will be learned from this result, and Stramaccioni can bring a confidence and less-defensive attitude to the next home match, which should see the Inter squad believing they can dominate any game in their own stadium. This is something that will be crucial if La Beneamata have any chance of competing for this season’s Scudetto, something I know they are more than capable of achieving.

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