‘San Zero’, they called our hallowed home. Neither we nor the devils that claim half our patch had been able to win any of their games at Stadio Guiseppe Meazza ever since the part-artificial turf was laid. ‘Il Diavolo’ were the first to end their curse with a fine 2-0 win over Cagliari at home, with a fine brace from youngster Stephan El-Sharaawy. And now, Inter were given a tough test to break their hoodoo against a Fiorentina side who had impressed a lot in the goalless draw with Juventus in Florence.
And pass they did, with flying colours. All three goals came in the first half itself, with Diego ‘Il Principe’ Milito putting away a penalty in the 17th minute before Fant Antonio Cassano scored a scintillating goal to double the lead in the 34th minute. Romulo pulled one back for the visitors in the 40th minute to ensure a nervy and tense second half, but La Beneamata held firm for their first win at home this season.
People do not realize the heartburn of having to wait so long for the first home win of the season. Especially considering Inter played the Europa League qualifying campaign too. Ever since that fateful night in Split when Inter crushed Hajduk 3-0 in a totally one-sided affair, the fans were optimistic. Inter had worked hard in the transfer season, something which was missing from the previous two seasons. Big names like Alvaro Pereira and Fredy Guarin were brought in from Porto, while proven Serie A performers like Samir Handanovic, Walter Gargano and Matias Silvestre were incorporated. However, the man who mattered most on the night was none other than lifelong fan Antonio Cassano.
For a man who is still not fully fit from injuries obtained from his time at Milan, Antonio Cassano surely does not let the fans know of it. A dazzling display from start to finish, Cassano took his goal with aplomb, running down a great pass from Esteban Cambiasso to wrong foot Emiliano Viviano from close range. Surely the small faction of fans who were skeptical with his transfer because of his age and injury record have been assuaged. The Barese has now scored 4 goals in 5 appearances for the Nerazzuri, and that too without being fully match fit. He, like Inter, looks poised to go from strength to strength.
Mind, this is not a final product, but a work in progress, as has been shown by Coach Andrea Stramaccioni’s constant rotation. For the second game in a row he stuck with a 3-man defence, and reaped the rewards. His faith in Andrea Ranocchia is being repaid, slowly but surely. Milito needs to work a lot harder on his finishing as he missed two excruciatingly simple chances to double his team’s tally. 21-year old Juan Jesus has been a real find, and the return of Philippe Coutinho from Espanyol has been a shot-in-the-arm. The 20-year old Brazilian was handed a rare start considering Wesley Sneijder’s injury, and took his chance with both hands. Walter Gargano is steadily improving. As for the veterans, Samuel and Cambiasso have shown that they can be relied upon in spite of their age. The latter provided a great assist and shackled Borja Valero and David Pizzaro in the midfield, while the former did a fine job of snuffing out threats from Adem Ljajic, and later, Luca Toni. It is every Internazionale fan’s dream to see Javier Zanetti playing well into his 40s, and it looks good enough to come true, with the captain winning the first penalty and running tirelessly for the full 90 minutes.
Next up: the Derby della Madonina. Bring it on.
– By Parth Gawarikar