Inter as favourites? Nobody said so in July – Inzaghi

By Sports Desk December 22, 2021

Simone Inzaghi lauded his Inter players for an outstanding first half of the Serie A season, pointing out a successful defence of the Scudetto was not always widely expected.

Inter are favourites for a second straight title heading into the second half of the campaign having created a gap at the top of the table through 19 matchweeks.

In beating Torino 1-0 on Wednesday, the Nerazzurri moved seven points clear of Napoli and Milan, who were both in action later the same day.

But Inter had to withstand a tumultuous off-season to get to this point, losing coach Antonio Conte and star players Romelu Lukaku, Achraf Hakimi and, to health issues, Christian Eriksen.

It was not necessarily a given then that the champions would maintain their form from last term, reaching the end of 2021 having scored 104 goals (the most since Milan's 120 in 1950) and won 32 matches (trailing only Juventus' 33 in 2016) in Serie A.

The Torino game, settled by Denzel Dumfries' latest strike, was not Inter's best display either but marked a sixth straight win without conceding for the first time in their top-flight history.

A delighted Inzaghi, who left Lazio to join Inter at the end of last season, told a news conference: "I immediately had great confidence when I joined and met the squad.

"Now, it is probably convenient for everyone to saw that Inter are a juggernaut and are the favourites, but I remember in July that's now what people were saying.

"The players have been good, but for us these results must be motivation to keep pushing, as a journey full of pitfalls awaits us."

Dumfries is not an obvious difference-maker in the final third, scoring twice in 30 Eredivisie games for PSV last season, but he now has three in 16 in Serie A.

Five team-mates have four goals or more, with Inter now boasting options in attack as well as an increasingly sturdy defence.

Defender Alessandro Bastoni told DAZN: "We've gone on a good run of not conceding goals after a tough start.

"It was important to re-establish a solid defence in line with what we were doing last season and we're doing great in that regard.

"Coach Simone Inzaghi's approach gives us an element of surprise which we were perhaps lacking last year. We have a great time together on the pitch and we get on great together. The new players have slotted right in.

"We're on a great winning run and we want to keep this up. We want to experience the feeling of winning the Scudetto, which we got to enjoy last season."

Related items

  • Zlatan Ibrahimovic dedicates Milan's Scudetto to Raiola as Swedish star defies doubters Zlatan Ibrahimovic dedicates Milan's Scudetto to Raiola as Swedish star defies doubters

    Zlatan Ibrahimovic declared his Milan mission accomplished as the Rossoneri were crowned Serie A champions for the first time in 11 years – but the veteran has not ruled out playing for another season.

    The 40-year-old Swedish striker embarked on the second spell of his career with Milan in December 2019, and said that was at the behest of his long-time agent Mino Raiola, who died in late April.

    Ibrahimovic dedicated his title success with Milan to Raiola, who he said had backed him to lift Milan from the doldrums.

    The former Juventus and Inter player's impact at San Siro has been remarkable, with a glut of goals early on serving to lift spirits at the club and set the tone for the success that has followed.

    Last season, Ibrahimovic scored 16 goals in 26 games as Milan finished second in Serie A, while this term he has also featured 26 times, albeit starting only 12 games and netting eight times.

    The returns have been diminishing and injuries have been a problem, with knee and Achilles trouble disrupting his season this time around, but Ibrahimovic's effervescence continues to be infectious as he proves a positive dressing-room presence.

    "When I got back here, I remember a journalist at a press conference saying that usually those who go back to where they have been can do only worse," Ibrahimovic told DAZN after the title-clinching 3-0 win at Sassuolo.

    "I replied that I would fight to get the club back up and to win the Scudetto. Nobody believed it, but we are here, we have worked hard and made many sacrifices, proving that thanks to work nothing is impossible."

    Ibrahimovic was Milan's main man when they won the 2010-11 Serie A title, having previously been a table-topper in Italy with Juve and Inter. He has since starred for Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester United and LA Galaxy, where it was widely assumed he was winding down his career, albeit with a glut of goals. The return to Milan has proved otherwise in that regard.

    He recognised his playing efforts this year had been less influential than in the past two campaigns, and his contract is due to expire next month.

    "But I think I have been useful to this group off the pitch," he added.

    Milan collected gained 86 points in Serie A this season, and only in 2005-06 (88 points) have they managed more in the era of three points for a win.

    Speaking about Raiola, Ibrahimovic said: "The dedication is to Mino Raiola. This is the first trophy I have won without him.

    "When I returned to Europe, I was close to Napoli, and then I asked him where I could go to make a difference and he replied that only I could save Milan."

    Ibrahimovic puffed on a cigar and celebrated with champagne after Milan secured the Scudetto. If that suggested a sense of finality, Ibrahimovic seemingly did not intend it that way.

    He will have his body checked out now the season is over, and said: "If I'm fine, this wasn't my last match. I'll consider whether to have surgery."

  • Cagliari suffer Serie A relegation as Salernitana survive for first time despite Udinese thrashing Cagliari suffer Serie A relegation as Salernitana survive for first time despite Udinese thrashing

    Cagliari were relegated from Serie A after only managing a draw against Venezia as Salernitana retained their top-flight status despite being thrashed by Udinese.

    Salernitana looked in serious danger of going down when Davide Nicola took charge in February, sitting bottom of the table with three wins from 23 games.

    Nicola inspired a resurgence, though, with his side picking up 15 points in a run of seven league games to head into the final matchday two points clear of Cagliari.

    However, Udinese were rampant as Gerard Deulofeu, Ilija Nestorovski and Iyenoma Destiny Udogie put Nicola's side 3-0 down before half-time on Sunday.

    Udinese captain Roberto Pereyra added a fourth after the interval as the Friulians achieved their best Serie A points haul (47) since the 2012-13 season (66).

    That meant Cagliari would have stayed up with a win at already-relegated Venezia, but Alessandro Agostini's could only muster a draw as the Rossoblu were relegated to Serie B for the sixth time in their history.

    Cagliari's failure handed Salernitana their first-ever Serie A survival, having failed to do so on their other two attempts in 1947-48 and 1998-99.

    Salernitana also became the first team to stay up despite conceding at least 78 goals in a single top-flight campaign after Livorno (79 in 1929-30) and Lucchese (82 in 1947-48, 79 in 1949-50).

    Meanwhile, Cagliari join Venezia and Genoa in Serie B and the trio will aim to bounce straight back up next season.

  • Outrageous rabona strike among five for Balotelli in historic final-day display Outrageous rabona strike among five for Balotelli in historic final-day display

    Mario Balotelli finished the Turkish Super Lig season in stunning fashion with the first five-goal haul in Adana Demirspor's top-flight history.

    Ninth in the table heading into Sunday, Balotelli's ADS had little to play for against already-relegated Goztepe but put on a show.

    Vincenzo Montella's side ran out 7-0 winners, with Balotelli hitting five to finish the season on 18 league goals – behind only Kasimpasa's Umut Bozok (20).

    The Italy international's outstanding display represented a club first, while Alex in May 2011 had been the last Super Lig player to net five in a match, for Fenerbahce against Ankaragucu.

    This was Balotelli's first hat-trick since scoring three for Manchester City against Aston Villa in December 2010, making him the first foreign player to hit a treble for ADS.

    As if these achievements were not enough, Balotelli's fifth goal was an outrageous effort perhaps set to be considered for the FIFA Puskas Award.

    Seven step-overs tied Atakan Cankaya – who had earlier scored an own goal – in knots, finally working space seemingly for a left-footed shot before the striker executed a sublime right-footed rabona finish across the goalkeeper and into the bottom-right corner.

    "Five goals for me today," Balotelli posted on Instagram. "There was no better way to finish the championship! Thank you to everyone."

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.