The Serie A table will tell you that any away trip in the Campionato is a tough match. Atalanta were no different, as they welcomed Inter to the Stadio Azzurri d’Italia yesterday with a home record of won six, drawn one, and lost two – both defeats arriving in unfortunate circumstances against Juventus and Milan.
Despite this impressive record, no one could have expected the mid-table Orobici to hand the league-leading Beneamata such a painful hiding. Atalanta won the game 3-1, but in truth a scoreline of 6-1 would not have looked out of place, such was the home side’s dominance.
Cristiano Doni, who scored twice, went desperately close on two other occasions, also missing a sitter from six yards out. Sergio Floccari, who hit the opener, forced Julio Cesar into a number of other saves, while substitute Diego De Ascentis missed a virtual open goal from two yards out, blasting the ball onto the post.
Inter, meanwhile, registered just one off-target attempt during the first half, and they went in at half-time 3-0 down. In the second period, they only slightly improved, and did not get their consolation until deep into injury time when Zlatan Ibrahimovic swept home following a corner.
There is no doubt about it – this was Inter’s worst performance of the season, and possibly the first time in the post-Calciopoli era that they have been so emphatically dismantled. Every single department on the field was shockingly exposed. Full-backs Maicon and Maxwell were terrorised by widemen Jaime Valdes and Ferreira Pinto, and centre backs Ivan Cordoba and Nicolas Burdisso were torn apart by the offensive duo of Doni and Floccari.
The midfield were second to every ball. Christian Chivu was hauled off after only 28 minutes, Esteban Cambiasso was dominated by the impressive youngster Tiberio Guarente, while Javier Zanetti and Dejan Stankovic were virtual ghosts. In attack, Zlatan Ibrahimovic looked like he wanted to be somewhere else, and Hernan Crespo was lifeless too. Only in the second half, when Adriano, who was the afternoon’s only bright spark, was introduced, did the Inter frontline appear even remotely dangerous.
Every team has a bad day at the office, but was there more to Inter’s defeat than meets the eye? Was the great Jose Mourinho at fault?
I am a huge admirer of ‘The Special One’, but there is no doubt that he made some big mistakes yesterday. Inter had some problems at centre back due to the absence of Marco Materazzi and Walter Samuel, but just why did Mourinho offer Burdisso a starting shirt. It has been proven quite conclusively that the Argentine is a complete liability, positionally suspect, and guaranteed to make at least one or two mistakes a game.
Christian Chivu should have partnered Cordoba at centre half, but what is even more bemusing is that it was quite clear in the opening 28 minutes, with Inter 1-0 down (although the substitution couldn’t take place until after the second goal), that Burdisso could not cope with Floccari. Instead of correcting his earlier error by moving Chivu back into defence, and substituting Burdisso, Mourinho replaced the Romanian with Obinna, and left Burdisso to continue being torn apart.
A third major criticism is the decision to start Hernan Crespo. The 33-year-old is way, way past his best. His pace and sharpness have gone, and he is quite clearly not of Inter calibre any longer. Mourinho, who just before kick off was forced to explain to confused journalists why Crespo was starting, as good as admitted his error by replacing the striker at half time with Adriano. The Brazilian immediately looked a threat.
Mourinho's conversion to a 4-3-3 just a third of the way through the game smacked of desperation and wishful thinking. This system does not appear to work in Serie A, hence the reason Mourinho scrapped it a few months ago, and it was never going to work against an Atalanta team who were already outnumbering Inter five to four in midfield.
Of course, one must not take credit away from Atalanta. Mourinho may have made some big errors, but this was an outstanding Orobici performance. Doni is 36 in a few months, but is still among the best supporting attackers in Serie A, and a real talisman. His understanding with Floccari is telepathic.
Floccari himself is, at this present time, undoubtedly the best Italian attacker in Serie A. A player who is good enough for any big squad, it will be a disgrace if Italy coach Marcello Lippi doesn’t call him up for the international friendly against Brazil in London, three weeks tomorrow. Another player to look out for in the future is Tiberio Guarente. The 23-year-old was a colossus in the middle-of-the-park, and he has been impressing all season. Just before Christmas, he made Juventus’ Claudio Marchisio look very ordinary, while he did the same yesterday to the world renowned Esteban Cambiasso.
Inter’s lead at the top of Serie A has now been cut to three points after Juventus drew 1-1 at Lazio last night, while Milan have also closed to within six points after they beat Fiorentina. The Nerazzurri are still the winter champions, but without a Serie A win since Christmas, Mourinho will have to find some solutions to cure this mini-crisis.
What are your views on this topic? What was your assessment of Inter’s humiliating defeat at Atalanta? Did Mourinho get it wrong? Was it the players fault? Or was it mainly down to Atalanta’s stellar display? Are Inter in crisis? Goal.com wants to know what YOU think…