De Zerbi’s Sassuolo had gone their first eight games in the league without a defeat: five wins and three draws. They are a team that should be feared and respected for their possession play and their unpredictability in the final third. Inter’s main mission was to totally nullify their main attacking threats, further objectives for the Nerazzurri included: recover from the Champions League knock-out and rediscover their ferocity, passion, style of play and incisiveness. Mission completed to its fullest extent. The Nerazzurri inflicted a first loss of the season on De Zerbi’s side, taking all three points and conceding no goals against a team that had scored 20 goals in just eight games.
The stats tell a story of a Sassuolo outfit that dominated possession of the football, despite being a goal down after three minutes. The Neroverdi ended the game with 65% possession. But Inter took the lead, in fact, from a phase of Sassuolo possession, thanks to the pressure and intelligence of Lautaro Martinez. The Argentine’s willingness to constantly harass the Sassuolo back line was an issue for the hosts throughout the game. El Toro assisted Sanchez for the opener and was a catalyst for a whole host of chances, many of which were carved out on his own. Lautaro ran rings around Chiriches, almost scored a wonder-goal and served Sanchez on a plate to score.
Inter, who went 2-0 up thanks to Chiriches turning Vidal’s cross-cum-shot into his own net, seemed to have completely erased the errors prevalent in recent games. It’s true that they saw less of the ball but, in fact, for all Sassuolo’s passes (698 to 371), they struggled to conjure up any real threat. Inter’s defence were practically never tested.
The screen in front of the Nerazzurri back line was Barella, who was deployed for the first time in a more central role between Vidal and Gagliardini. Four interceptions, six successful tackles and 12km covered for our number 23. Similar numbers were put up by his midfield colleagues, who were seemingly everywhere on the pitch, closing down, starting offensive moves and joining the attack. Vidal and Gagliardini had less than half the touches of Locatelli, for example, but were far more impactful and determined and looked to play forwards to a much greater extent.
Gagliardini’s goal, which wrapped up the game, proved Inter’s ability to get forward quickly down the right, where Darmian was in constant motion. When Inter didn’t have the ball, he marked Boga - one of the league’s best dribblers (five one-on-ones, three uncompleted, 13 total duels). On the front foot, he created numerous opportunities for his teammates with his accurate balls into the box: his cross for Vidal’s header, the ball in for Lautaro’s attempt that went over the bar and the assist for Gagliardini. Brilliant, solid, useful.
His showing summed up Inter’s performance as a whole. It was a display based on solidity, which will also be needed in the Champions, and by the efforts of the two centre-forwards, who were brilliant at bringing the midfielders into the game.
MATCH DETAILS: SASSUOLO 0-3 INTER
SASSUOLO (4-2-3-1): 47 Consigli; 22 Toljan (17 Muldur 59'), 21 Chiriches (2 Marlon 42') , 31 Ferrari, 6 Rogerio; 8 M. Lopez (23 Traore 76'), 73 Locatelli; 25 Berardi, 10 Djuricic (14 Obiang 59'), 7 Boga; 18 Raspadori (91 Schiappacasse 76').
Substitutes: 56 Pegolo, 4 Magnanelli, 5 Ayhan, 13 Peluso, 30 Oddei, 68 Bourabia, 77 Kiriakopulos.
Coach: Roberto De Zerbi.
INTER (3-5-2): 1 Handanovic; 37 Skriniar, 6 de Vrij, 95 Bastoni; 36 Darmian (2 Hakimi 92'), 22 Vidal, 23 Barella (12 Sensi 85'), 5 Gagliardini, 14 Perisic (24 Eriksen 85'); 7 Sanchez (15 Young 80'), 10 Lautaro (9 Lukaku 80').
Substitutes: 35 Stankovic, 97 Radu, 13 Ranocchia, 33 D'Ambrosio.
Coach: Antonio Conte.
Goalscorers: 4' Sanchez (I), 14' autogol Chiriches (S), 60' Gagliardini (I)
Bookings: Locatelli (S), Rogerio (S), Lopez (S), Perisic (I)
Added time: 2' - 3'.
Linesmen: Fiorito, Baccini.
Fourth Official: Ghersini.
Assistant VAR: Valeriani.