STADIO GIUSEPPE MEAZZA (Milan) – There was hardly a more appropriate way for Inter to honour April Fool’s day than let Fiorentina inflict their 10th Serie A defeat of the season in a game that saw them miss a countless massive opportunities before and after the decider scored by Giacomo Bonaventura, who years spent at AC Milan.
Many Nerazzurri fans may have well hoped it was a joke when Romelu Lukaku missed a sitter, not his only wasted chance of the game, at the beginning of the second half, minutes before the visitors’ opener. Instead, they were left to confront the grim reality that could see the likes of Milan and AS Roma either leapfrog or catch up with them in third, putting their chance of making the top four at huge risk.
Inter’s wastefulness keeps Fiorentina alive
A series of injuries occurred in recent weeks that saw Inter return from the international break with a depleted squad that forced Simone Inzaghi to once again deploy Matteo Darmian in the back-three, with Marcelo Brozovic taking his playmaker role back to replace Hakan Calhanoglu.
An inspired Fiorentina that came off seven consecutive wins in all competitions was hardly the ideal opponent for a Nerazzurri side that faced huge pressure after falling to their ninth Serie A defeat against Juventus recently, and a lively start to the match for both teams was just further proof that anything could happen.
Jonathan Ikoné immediately posed a threat from the right by forcing a clearance that resulted in a corner in the opening seconds of the game, but the hosts started to settle after 10 minutes, gradually taking hold of the visitors’ half.
However, despite a series of long balls addressed to Romelu Lukaku and Alessandro Bastoni’s overlaps that put Fiorentina’s defence to the test, it was André Onana who was forced to make the first saves of the afternoon, as he palmed away Gaetano Castrovilli’s volley before taking an additional touch from the ground which crucially prevented any player from bouncing on the rebound.
Inter began to pile up clear-cut chances after surviving that massive scare, and they should blame themselves for not converting at least one of those – Henrikh Mkhitaryan went close to scoring a beauty when he smartly sprinted past two Fiorentina players and ran through their half, but his final attempt was stopped by Pietro Terracciano, before sending the rebound out with an ambitious bicycle-kick.
Lukaku could have definitely done better when Brozovic’s through pass cut Fiorentina wide open, giving Dumfries the chance to tee up the Belgian in the box, only to see the latter hesitate in an attempt to elude a couple of Viola’s defenders, eventually giving the visitors the chance to clear the danger.
Another Lukaku shot from a good position was deflected by Castrovilli shortly after, giving Vincenzo Italiano’s men the chance to end the opening 45 minutes on the rise. Riccardo Saponara broke into the penalty box and was blocked before he could take a shot, but the ball rolled across for Ikoné who incredibly missed hitting it in front of an open goal.
Former AC Milan player Bonaventura puts Inter to the sword
Things resumed in the same way after the break, both sides starting on the front foot in search of an opener, and Inter once again came close to it through Lukaku, who missed a sitter by failing to tap in Francesco Acerbi’s cutback from point-blank range.
Unavoidably, the Nerazzurri were eventually made to pay for their wastefulness, as Onana was called upon again to palm away Arthur Cabral’s header from a corner, but was left helpless when former AC Milan midfielder Giacomo Bonaventura tapped in the rebound at the far post, celebrating the opener wildly as he ran to his bench to emphatically hug Italiano.
A stunning attempt from Nicolò Barella against the post and yet another missed chance from Dumfries was how the Nerazzurri reacted to going down, but their mounting pressure also gave the Viola further space to exploit on the counter-attack.
Lautaro Martinez replaced Correa to add to Inter’s attacking prowess, but it was the other substitute Raoul Bellanova who was once again denied by Terracciano with his foot, further discouraging the hosts, who gradually lost their offensive spark and failed to worry Fiorentina’s rearguard in the closing minutes.