Rafa off the mark in Serie A...
Inter lived up to expectations as they beat Udinese at San Siro. But the Nerazzurri will have to reflect over their performance in what it was an extremely tight encounter. Udinese may feel they deserved a point out of this entertaining clash at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza.
Lucio scored the opener, but Antonio Floro Flores equalised before half time. Samuel Eto'o netted the winner with a tap in after Samir Handanovic had deflected his penalty kick.
For this game, Benitez switched to a 4-2-3-1 formation preferring Jonathan Biabiany to Goran Pandev. The Nerazzurri were also missing Douglas Maicon, who watched the game from the stands. Dejan Stankovic was also ruled out, but Wesley Sneijder regularly started. Francesco Guidolin confirmed the trident formed by Alexis Sanchez, Antonio Floro Flores and Antonio Di Natale.
Inter had a really got start to the game and put plenty of pressure on Udinese. Rafa's pressing seemed to be working well and led to several interceptions. The Nerazzurri looked determined and soon found the opener following a corner kick from Sneijder. Samir Handanovic poor deflection favoured Lucio, who controlled the ball in the box and smashed it into the net. Inter couldn't have hoped for a better start.
Udinese had an impressive reaction though. Inter kept on coming forward, still the Bianconeri had most of the ball possession. Di Natale missed a good opportunity following a cross from Sanchez. The Chilean winger also had a good chance but his effort went wide.
Inter were eager to double their lead but looked slightly unorganised. Samuel Eto'o had two attempts on goal which did not cause Handanovic any troubles.
Udinese immediately hit back though and caught the Nerazzurri defence sleeping. A completely unmarked Floro Flores met a corner kick from Di Natale in the middle of the box. Lucio tried to stop him, but the striker comfortably headed the ball past Julio Cesar.
At this point, Guidolin told his men to switch to a 4-3-3 strategy which seemed to be working well for them. But Handanovic had to make a sensational save on Diego Milito's screamer. Walter Samuel also went close with a header.
Benitez tried to reshuffle things as he moved Eto'o to the right and Biabiany to the left. The former Parma player earned a free kick from the edge of the box, but Sneijder failed to make good use of it.
The second half started off at great speed, with Sanchez once again skipping past a confused Christian Chivu. Julio Cesar was forced to rush out of the box to stop Di Natale. Udinese looked very confident but Inter nearly caught them on the counter. Eto'o entered the box at full speed and went down as he was slightly touched by Cristian Zapata: it was 50-50, but the referee harshly booked the Cameroonian player for diving.
Inter kept on pushing: Sneijder did everything right as he skipped past two and crossed it to Mc Donald Mariga, whose effort was far from impressive. Benitez took off Chivu and moved Zanetti to the left in order to stop an incredibly inspired Sanchez, the move worked well.
The Nerazzurri were twice lucky as they were awarded a penalty for a naïve handball from Gabriel Angella, on his Serie A debut. Handanovic saved Eto'o penalty kick, but the ball bounced back for the easiest of tap ins.
It was a blow for the visitors, who did, however, had the chance to equalise soon after when Ivan Cordoba pulled down Di Natale in the box. It seemed a clear penalty but the Bianconeri striker saw yellow for diving.
Milito missed a good chance at the other end, then Eto'o hit the post with a screamer from the edge of the box. Udinese had little left to give in the final minutes and Inter could celebrate their first Serie A win of the season.