By Mark Doyle
It says everything about Inter’s current woes that a full-back was their most creative force in Saturday night’s defeat by Juventus at San Siro.
Even before Maicon had levelled matters with a deflected strike on 28 minutes, he had provided plenty of incision down the right-hand side. Indeed, it was a characteristically rampaging run from the Brazilian which had forced the corner which led to the equaliser.
It was also a cross from the advancing right-back which Giampaolo Pazzini headed spectacularly against the bar on 32 minutes, less than 60 seconds before Juventus reclaimed the lead with a wonderfully precise finish from Claudio Marchisio, following a neat exchange with Alessandro Matri on the edge of the box.
It was hard not to feel a degree of sympathy for Pazzini. The former Sampdoria striker looked menacing throughout the first half but far less so in the second period as Inter’s creativity became conspicuous by its absence. Pazzini is a wonderfully instinctive and predatory striker but he is rendered utterly ineffective if he is not provided with decent service.
|MATCH FACTS | Inter 1-2 Juventus
With Wesley Sneijder cutting an increasingly frustrated figure, looking every bit like a player who has stayed at a club one season too many, Inter look worryingly bereft of ideas in the middle of the park. Consequently, Pazzini really could have done with a creative presence alongside him up front.
Mauro Zarate’s trickery and clever running into the channels created openings for Pazzini during the first half but the temperamental Argentine was removed at the interval after rowing with one team-mate too many. Inter boss Claudio Ranieri deserves credit for making the bold decision to replace Zarate but it was a decision that stripped Inter of what dynamism and invention they had possessed in the attacking third during the opening 45 minutes.
Indeed, even though the game was played largely in Juventus territory in the second period, not once did Inter really look capable of carving out a clear-cut opening.
Luc Castaignos just did not ask as many questions of the Juventus defence as the enigmatic Zarate had, while fellow substitutes Ricky Alvarez and Dejan Stankovic also struggled to impose themselves on the game.
In the end, the fixture only served to underline that Inter simply do not have the same variety of attacking options that they once boasted in abundance.
Admittedly, Diego Forlan was unavailable through injury and he showed flashes in Ranieri’s first game in charge, against Bologna last month, to suggest that he could prove a worthy foil for Pazzini. However, the ageing Uruguayan is unlikely to prove as talismanic a figure as the man he replaced, Samuel Eto’o.
In truth, it was difficult not to think of heroes of old as Inter toiled in the second period at San Siro on Saturday night. How they could have done with the explosiveness of Eto'o, the unpredictability of Mario Balotelli or the ingenuity of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who, just a couple of hours before kick-off, had inspired bitter rivals AC Milan to victory at Roma, making this derby defeat all the more difficult for Inter fans to swallow.
On this evidence, Inter have as many issues to resolve in attack as they do in defence.
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