As much as they were left exhilarated by their last-gasp 4-3 win over Fiorentina, many Inter fans likely spent the following hours wondering which version of their team they should have expected to see against Viktoria Plzen.
The answer was far from being a predictable one – while a five-match unbeaten streak across all competitions seemed to have put Simone Inzaghi‘s outfit back on track after a miserable start, the seven-goal thriller that unfolded at the Stadio Artemio Franchi was further proof of how quickly the Nerazzurri could lose control of a game which seems under control at any given moment.
However, Inter could not let it spoil what was arguably the most important fixture of their season so far, as a win over Viktoria Plzen at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on Wednesday would have given them a priceless ticket for the Champions League round of 16.
Inter showcased an improved maturity
Luckily for their fans, the Nerazzurri were in full swing as they defeated the Czech side 4-0 in front of more than 70,000 roaring fans who watched their side progress to the knockout stage for the second year in a row.
Perhaps for the first time this season, Inter proved a comprehensively mature side, taking control of both the mental and technical aspects of the game, except for the opening minutes where their haste almost cost them a lethal counter cleared by Alessandro Bastoni.
The team grew into the game and thrived on the atmosphere and support from the crowd, rapidly turning what initially seemed a fierce opposition into a pile of rubble guilty of leaving the Nerazzurri too space and time to bring out the best from their football.
Class and experience led the way
Bastoni’s creativity was back at its best levels, as his repeated carries, overlaps and through passes, as well as a very effective link-up with Federico Dimarco, helped Inter progress with ease down the left flank, with their nine shots on target forcing Viktoria Plzen’s goalkeeper Stanek to make several saves to prevent the Nerazzurri to pile even more misery on the visitors.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Edin Dzeko and Nicolo Barella were also amongst the best performers on the night, as they took full responsibility for the task they were asked to complete, putting their class and experience at disposal of the whole team.
Further proofs required
If Simone Inzaghi can build on this potentially season-defining win, then he could really trace the path to follow for the remainder of the season, with a further boost coming from the returns of Romelu Lukaku and Marcelo Brozovic.
However, after four Serie A defeats at the hands of AC Milan, Lazio, Roma and Udinese, only a fully convincing display in a high-profile league fixture can tell whether Inter have finally reached maturity. Clashes against Juventus and Atalanta will then be a good chance to test how thick-skinned they have become and measure their progress.