Inter start 2013 as they ended '12: Bad luck & worse shooting

Posted by Mike Whittaker

Gabriele Maltinti/Getty ImagesInter's Antonio Cassano and Rodrigo Palacio had plenty of reason to be dejected

"I strongly believe in two things, even more so after this match. I believe in my players and in our project." I was glad to see Andrea Stramaccioni stand behind his players after the 3-0 thrashing Inter received at the hands of Udinese Sunday in their first game of 2013.

Despite this terrible start to the new year, I agree wholeheartedly with Strama's backing of the Inter project. As I've stated many times before, it is something that will take time to come together completely, so Inter can't expect to be the powerhouse club they once were with perfect performances from the team week in, week out.

What I don't agree with is the Inter boss's insistence players missing from the Nerazzurri lineup due to injury, illness or suspension hampered the team's chances against an Udinese team who haven't been in their best form this season.

"Obviously these absentees do have an impact," Stramaccioni said. Normally, I'm right behind the Inter coach as I'm a big fan of his philosophy and tactics. But the reality is all the starting lineup, with the exception of Jonathan, have been playing on a regular basis this season and should have been capable of securing at least a draw against a mid-table Udinese.

On a positive note, at least the coach is aware that improvement is needed across the squad, and like myself feels that once again bad decisions by the officials had an impact on the result: "Of course a team can always improve, but one way or another we're unlucky in every game."

He wasn't just referring to the sitters both Jonathan and Rodrigo Palacio missed in the second half. To be fair, Palacio slipped as he struck the ball, but there's no excuse for Jonathan missing an open goal. The real controversy came midway through the first half when Udinese's last man Maurizio Domizzi brought down Palacio in the box, but inexplicably referee Luca Banti saw fit to book the Inter forward for diving instead of awarding the obvious penalty and red card.

Admittedly, Palacio made more of the contact than he probably should have, but the contact was there, however minimal. Considering Palacio isn't known for diving Banti should've given the attacking player the benefit of the doubt. Had Domizzi been sent off I'm sure we would be looking at a hugely different result now, even with Inter also going down to 10 men with the dismissal of Juan Jesus in the second half.

At the start of the second half Inter looked the far stronger side, but all the way through the first Antonio Di Natale had looked threatening in front of the Inter goal, so when the Nerazzurri had pushed too far forward it was the Udinese captain who punished the Nerazzurri's lapse of concentration in defence.

To be honest I had been expecting him to score for a while at that point, and before Juan Jesus' dismissal I was sure Inter could level things again so I wasn't particularly worried.

Inter's red card on Juan changed everything, though. It seemed panic spread through the Nerazzurri ranks following the young defender's second yellow. Inter pushed hard to level it instead of keeping calm and patiently waiting for their chances. It was this disorganised approach that gave Udinese the opportunities to claim for their second and third goals and put the Nerazzurri out of the game completely.

Once again, Fredy Guarin proved himself to be invaluable to the Nerazzurri with his forward runs and key passes, making him by far the best Nerazzurri player on the pitch. But Inter's poor ability to hit the target has again cost them dearly. This loss is now their fourth in a row away from home, and also ends a 14-year unbeaten run in the first game back after the winter break.

On the bright side, Inter weren't the only top five club to fall to a surprise defeat, with league leader Juventus falling to Sampdoria, and Fiorentina losing to Inter's next opponent Pescara. Interisti should be thankful as it means we don't fall too far behind the top three but with Pescara beating the in-form Fiorentina I am worried that without Inter's best defenders Juan Jesus and Ranocchia another shock defeat will result.

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