Porto – As Andre Onana turned Porto’s final attempts away and Denzel Dumfries desperately slid to clear the ball away from the goal line, Inter fans could finally exhale. Those moments were the final breaths of an incredibly resilient display from Inter, one that had seen them suffer and struggle to keep their hosts out, and one that wouldn’t have been possible without that level of focus and commitment that the Nerazzurri only seem able to reach in high-tension games.
Coming out of a heated Estadio do Dragao as one of the best eight teams in Europe for the first time since 2011 was far from a simple feat, with those final heroic moments of resistance sparking memories of the closing minutes of Jose Mourinho’s Inter at the Camp Nou back in 2010.
However, such an achievement also begs a crucial question – how much is Simone Inzaghi responsible for the swings in attitude and concentration that his side show on the pitch from time to time?
Are Inter’s inconsistent performances Simone Inzaghi’s fault?
With almost two third of the season behind us, it looks evident that Inter only tend to perform at their very best when the stakes are at their highest.
It happened against Barcelona, twice, against runaway Serie A leaders and a then-unbeaten Napoli, AC Milan and now Porto. While this could be reassuring with a view to the tough fixtures that await the Nerazzurri from now on, winning teams don’t tend to be so patchy, which is why Inzaghi should wonder why this has been the trend of Inter’s season.
In their second leg against Porto, Inter may have not played their finest football, especially in the second half, but they deserve credit for the composure they were able to keep in such a heated atmosphere and the conviction they put into every single challenge, against an opponent whose relentless pressure and hunger could have discouraged many sides.
The cold blood shown by the likes of Hakan Calhanoglu, Matteo Darmian and Francesco Acerbi every time they had to play a ball under pressure worked as a lead for the whole team, giving the impression of a motivated side that couldn’t be overcome.
Yet, as a brave Inter side did everything they could not to feel overwhelmed, one couldn’t help but think of all those occasions in which the Nerazzurri have made softer tasks look more complicated than they were just because of their wrong attitude, which has happened many times during their stuttering Serie A campaign.
Although their Scudetto hopes have already been dashed, and with his job likely to be on the line until the end of the season, Simone Inzaghi should carefully reflect on his ability to inspire his players and try to help them bring out their best selves in every game. After all, motivation and consistency are the qualities that separate a strong side from a winning team.