So a seventh 1-0 win of the season, an eighth by just one goal and an tenth in which Inter have scored a single goal and no more. Still, it’s working, as this victory takes them three points clear of Fiorentina at the top of Serie A - at least until they play Sampdoria later.
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Full-time: Torino 0-1 Inter
90 mins + 7: Molinaro on the left, his chance to put a cross into a dangerous area...but instead he hoys it over the bar.
90 mins + 6: Perisic again, the ball in the corner, but he runs it out of play.
90 mins + 5: Inter have an attack, the two choices for Perisic and then Kondogbia to either shoot or keep the thing in the corners, but they choose mystery option No.3, which is ‘give it away pointlessly.’
90 mins +3: Weird how you only get cramp in the last minute when you’re defending a lead. Murillo goes down with a particularly convenient case, and this time is replaced by Ranocchia.
90 mins + 2: Padelli seems to be on some sort of mission to make this even more difficult for himself and his team. He dribbles around Perisic as the Inter man tries to close him down, and while he just about manages it, that was...risky.
90 mins: Six (6!) minutes of added time. Quite where that has come from is unclear.
89 mins: Padelli and two of his defenders have just spent the last 30 seconds passing it rather dangerously around between themselves. Dangerous enough at the best of times, but rather baffling when they’ve just brought a big lump on to aim at up top.
88 mins: Another chance for Torino, as Vives finds some room and breaks in from the left, but Handanovic dashes out and smothers his shot excellently. The Inter keeper has been immense today.
87 mins: Hard man Medel goes down clutching his face as if taken down with a mighty axe, when in reality he received a brief brush from Vives’s hand.
85 mins: Glik clips a long ball aiming for the big man, Amauri heads it down for Quagliarella around 30 yards out but he bloots the thing well over.
82 mins: Change for Torino, as Baselli comes off, replaced by the old boy Amauri. Three up top for the home side, and they have a combined age of 98.
81 mins: Inter counter, and Ljajic cuts in with plenty of space on the edge of the box, but he spoons his shot miles, miles over.
80 mins: Big chance for Torino. Baselli clips a lovely ball over the top, Quagliarella’s first touch isn’t great as it stops his forward motion and has to dig out the shot rather, but he does and skids it towards the near-post, and Handanovic gets down well to shove it away.
78 mins: Benassi can’t get any satisfaction as his low, cut-back cross from the right is behind the waiting attackers and is cleared.
77 mins: Looks like Mancini is happy with another 1-0 win, which will be their seventh of the season if they hold on. Change for Torino, as Peres goes off and the splendidly-named Davide Zappacosta comes on.
76 mins: Ranocchia has his trackie back on, disappointingly. Instead, Adem Ljajic replaces Palacio.
74 mins: Nice try, Peres. He stretches to take Nagatomo down as he breaks on the left, then tries to garner sympathy and avoid a booking by claiming he’s injured/has cramp. It doesn’t work, and the yellow is duly flashed.
71 mins: Another Torino penalty shout - this time after Murillo (back on for now) falls to the floor and heads the ball from there, with the home lot trying to convince everyone he’d used his hands. He had not.
70 mins: Actually, Murillo might not be fine. Andrea Ranocchia is readying himself to come on, which should introduce a little chaos to things.
68 mins: Perisic causes problems straight away on the left of the Torino area, but his cross is blocked and put behind for a corner. Meanwhile Murillo is on the turf, after what looked like a clash of knees. Painful, but you’d reckon he’ll be fine eventually.
67 mins: Change for Inter - Icardi comes off, interestingly. Ivan Perisic comes on.
66 mins: Howls for a penalty from the home crowd as the newly-introduced Lopez tumbles in the box, but despite a vague hint of a touch from behind by Jesus (leave it), the ref was right not to give that one.
65 mins: Kondogbia belts through towards the penalty area, pulls back his foot to take his shot but Glik puts in the meatiest challenge you can while still being fair and saves his team. What a tackle that was.
63 mins: Benassi tries to break in from the left, but Medel takes him down with a mixture of his arm and leg. Just to make sure, like. A booking, you won’t be stunned to learn.
62 mins: Change for Torino - Belotti is off, and Maxi Lopez comes on. The home crowd don’t sound at all delighted about the man coming off.
61 mins: Quieter period now. Inter try to reclaim something approaching control by knocking the thing around the back, and for the moment Torino seem happy to let them.
59 mins: Nagatomo goes up for a header and lands bloody hard on his back/neck/head. Play goes on, but Torino’s attack peters out as Handanovic claims. Fortunately it looks like Nagatomo is OK, but that was a nasty fall.
57 mins: Nagatomo wins a free-kick on the right in a rare foray into the Torino half.
54 mins: Inter look in some bother here as another nascent Torino attack is just about repelled. They need a stern ticking off from the man in the smart casual attire.
53 mins: If Big Ron was commentating on this game he’d say Torino are ‘knocking on the door’. Belotti goes down and stays there, but the ball breaks to Peres on the right who fires in a most dangerous low cross, but Quagliarella can’t get there to turn it home.
50 mins: Two more quick saves from Handanovic - firstly from Belotti again, and then from Quagliarella as the veteran forward breaks in from the right. Torino have come out from the break very much in the mood. Mancini is extremely cross on the touchline, looking as fierce as a man wearing a tank top and a light scarf can do.
48 mins: How on earth did that stay out? The corner is cleared, but Molinaro clips a cross over from the right which finds Quagliarella in an absurd amount of space around eight yards from goal. His flick is saved, it falls to Belotti who’s in similarly generous room but he can’t force it over the line, Handanovic making a superb save and getting a boot to the mush for his troubles.
47 mins: Benassi pulls Nagatomo’s pants down on the Torino right and drives down the flank, his cross put behind for a corner.
46 mins: And we’re away. Murillo hoofs a long one up to Icardi, but he fouls Glik and that’s that one done.
The players are back out, the ref is checking his call centre-esque mic and earpiece.
Meanwhile, in nonsense...
Decent half, that. Inter didn’t exactly start like a train and haven’t really dominated, but they deserve the 1-0 lead. Icardi has looked a little more dangerous and while Torino’s biggest threat has come from their midfield, they’ve been kept relatively quiet thus far.
Half-time: Torino 0-1 Inter
45 mins + 2: Half chance for Torino after Quagliarella flicks one on at the near-post, but there’s nobody around to capitalise. Meanwhile, there are some half-appeals at the other end for a penalty after Icardi played the ball onto Vives’s forearm, but that would have been hugely harsh.
45 mins: Chance for Torino, but Belotti’s shot is charged down with some gusto by Murillo. Two minutes of added time to be played.
44 mins: Nagatomo whips the free-kick into the box, but Padelli does his Lidl Superman act, dives out and punches clear.
43 mins: Nagatomo is wrestled to the ground by Peres near the corner flag, and there’s a free-kick in a dangerous position =here for Inter.
41 mins: Big penalty shout for Torino as Belotti tumbles to the turf under a challenge from Murillo, but ‘challenge’ is probably actually too much of a stretch. Murillo vaguely wafted his arm slightly near the Torino forward, who tumbled to the turf as if struck by Thor’s hammer. No penner.
40 mins: The TV camera just cut away from the action while the ball was literally in play, being passed around midfield, to focus on a pretty lady in the crowd. Good lord.
38 mins: Palacio’s on the turf, head in one hand, the other on his ankle, which looked like it received a late kick from Vives. The physio and a besuited doctor dash on, the former seemingly just spraying some water on the ailment, which seemed to do the trick.
36 mins: Nearly another for Inter. From a throw deep on the right, Palacio works a bit of space and fires a low cross to Icardi, but he can’t get enough on his shot. Inter clicking now, mind.
34 mins: Torino back at it straight away. Quagliarella storms down the right and whips in a low cross looking for Belotti, who gets there just ahead of Miranda but can’t quite direct his effort properly, and it goes wide of the far-post.
31 mins: Glick is penalised and booked after taking Icardi down around 35 yards out on the left. Nagatomo curls the cross into the box, it’s flicked on over the defensive line and Kondogbia is there to volley home, left-footed from about ten yards out. That’s his first goal for Inter.
GOAL! Torino 0-1 Inter (Kondogbia 31)
Against the run of play, in truth.
30 mins: Torino hit the bar! From the corner that resulted from Jesus’s unfortunate incident, the ball breaks to Benassi outside the area. He opens his body, measures a right-footed shot and it just doesn’t dip enough, kissing the crossbar on its way over.
29 mins: Juan Jesus has just been struck in the...erm...particulars. Let’s all take a moment to empathise with his pain, if you have similar particulars.
27 mins: The home crowd aren’t a big fan on this ref. Baselli and D’Ambrosio clash, with the fault looking very much like it was the Inter man’s, but instead the home midfielder is punished.
25 mins: Opportunity missed for Torino. The ball falls to Baselli just outside the area, he tries to thread a pass through to Quagliarella in some space, but he makes a frightful balls of things, and it goes out for a goal-kick.
22 mins: Garry Monk lookalike Glick drives through midfield and looks like he’s well in on goal, but he’s penalised for a foul on Icardi. The Torino players and fans are fuming, but it did look rather like an arm across the face of the Inter man there from Glick. It threatens to turn into a dust-up in the middle, but that dies down relatively quickly.
21 mins: Peres plays a longish ball forwards which Quagliarella tries to flick on, eventually reaching Belotti. However the offside flag goes up, which if Quagliarella did actually get a touch on was the correct call, but not if he didn’t.
19 mins: Getting a bit tasty out there. Palacio receives a boot to the stomach from Vives. That looked like it stung. Meanwhile Peres is allowed to meander through the Inter midfield from the right, unchallenged until he gets to around 25 yards from goal. He has options left and right, but instead goes for the shot and it flies well over the bar.
17 mins: The corner, into the near-post, is put wide by Kondogbia, attempting a cheeky ‘Zola’ flick.
16 mins: Beautiful work from Kondogbia down the left, firstly with a roulette that takes him away from Benassi then a delicate chip down the line to Nagatomo. The Japanese wing-back mis-hits his cross and it floats towards the near-post, but Padelli panics rather and punches the ball behind, apologising almost before the corner is given.
15 mins: Murillo fairly blatantly shoves Quagliarella to the turf, but for some reason the referee didn’t see a problem there and no free-kick is given. Molinaro seems to be back on - no word yet whether someone has quickly darned his ripped sock, though.
13 mins: D’Ambrosio tries to loop a pass over the top for Icardi, but that was too far over the top and the attack is done. Meanwhile, Torino have a problem with Molinaro: there’s a dirty great hole in his sock, through which magic spray his applied to his foot. Looked like that might have come about through a disagreement with Melo’s studs.
12 mins: Padelli in the Torino goal puts his defender Silva into some bother with the most A&E of hospital passes in their own right-back region, but he deals with it with a poise that belied the iffy nature of the pass.
10 mins: Goalmouth scramble! Icardi gets down the left and breaks into the area, then fires it into the middle where assorted players try to direct the thing into the net, including Kondogbia and Palacio. It eventually loops up to Icardi, having sauntered to the edge of the six-yard box, who tries a header but it loops over the bar.
8 mins: Inter struggling to get into this one so far. D’Ambrosio takes time out from making custard and rice pudding to win a free-kick on the right, and ‘win’ is the appropriate word, doing the old ‘backing into the defender then throwing himself forwards’ trick. Molinaro is the unfortunate Torino man this time.
6 mins: First shot of the day, as Benassi drives forwards and puts an effort in, but it’s not especially strong and goes straight at Handanovic in the Inter nets.
5 mins: More scrap. Torino attempt to exert something approaching control by knocking it around the back for a bit, then Baseli breaks forward from midfield, but his run is halted by Murilo.
2 mins: Scrappy so far. Inter try to breach the penalty area firstly through Palacio from the right and Kondogbia from the middle, but they don’t manage it. Torino win a free-kick in midfield but Fabio Quagliarella is carelessly caught offside.
1 min: We’re away. Torino kick off, and it sounds lively.
A brief note before the game starts: that Inter midfield three of Medel, Melo and Kondogbia...you wouldn’t want to spill their pints, would you?
Kick-off shortly. The teams are readying themselves. I’ve done my stretches. Turin looks lovely. It’s on.
And some pre-match watching. This time, a little more to do with the events of the day:
Pre-match reading. Admittedly, not much to do with the game, but here’s Danny Taylor’s Observer column on Salford City and the ‘Class of ‘92’.
They tell a story at Manchester United, going back to the days before the conveyor belt at Old Trafford rolled off the players who now go by the collective Class of ’92 moniker, about the time the youth-team coach Eric Harrison was so disgusted by one performance an entire team were left hanging by their arms from the crossbar.
Harrison was the disciplinarian who drummed into Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt, the Neville brothers and everybody else coming through United’s system the importance of regimenting, hard graft and accepting orders. His word was law – and he could be just as terrifying as Alex Ferguson. “Aside from the boss, Eric could make the most brutal comments of any coach I’ve come across,” Gary Neville once said.
As such, it isn’t difficult to imagine the explosion of rage after one game when the players lining up in a defensive wall jumped and turned their backs as an opposition player struck a free-kick. The shot was low, went under the wall and into the back of the net, and it was in the next training session that the culprits were left dangling from the woodwork. Balls were lined up and fired in to try to knock them down. That team never turned their backs at a free-kick again.
So Icardi’s back for Inter, up front with Rodrigo Palacio, and it looks like 3-5-2 for both teams.
Padelli; Pryima, Glik, Moretti; Peres, Benassi, Baselli, Vives, Molinaro; Belotti, Quagliarella. Subs: Ichazo, Castellazzi, Pryima, Zappacosta, Acquah, Prcic, Gazzi, Lopez, Amauri, Martinez.
Handanovic; Murillo, Miranda, Jesus; D’Ambrosio, Melo, Medel, Kondogbia, Nagatomo; Palacio, Icardi. Subs: Berni, Carrizo, Telles, Montoya, Santon, Ranocchia, Brozovic, Gnoukouri, Ljajic, Biabiany, Jovetic, Manaj.
Referee: Massimiliano Irrati (Firenze)
While we wait for the teams...
The Sandro of whom they talk is Sandro Mazzola, great forward of the 1960s who was the son of Valentino Mazzola, one of the Torino players who died in the Superga crash. Mazzola Jnr won two league titles and two European Cups with Inter, playing 418 times for them. He was also one half of the famous theory from Ferruccio Valcareggi in the 1970 World Cup, the coach believing that Mazzola and Gianni Rivera couldn’t play in the same team, so gave them a half each. Which...worked to a point.
The Bundesliga is done. La Liga is going to be one of two. Ligue Un is over. The Premier League will be one of two, maybe three. But Serie A. Serie A’s where it’s at. Four points separate the top five in Italy, and they’re not just a favourite and a few chancers who’ve had a good start to the season. These are five teams who could genuinely win the thing. And Juventus, still sloshing around in their mid-table reverie, aren’t even one of them.
Inter are one of them, though. Level top on 24 points with Fiorentina (although with a much inferior goal difference), and all this without the best work of their captain and main striker. Mauro Icardi was dropped for last week’s win over Roma, and there’s talk that he might even be doing one in January.
They haven’t needed him really, mind. In seemingly a one-team tussle to uphold stereotypes of Italian football, Inter’s seven wins this season have all been by a single goal, six of those being 1-0. Their commitment to binary football is quite something.
And Roberto Mancini doesn’t even think they’re ready. He said this week:
I always said it was going to take 10-15 games. We’re not as uncertain as we were a few weeks ago, but we’ve still got work to do. Gary Medel is in a great condition, there are no problems for him to play.
“If I’d take anyone away from Juventus? Nobody, because the beauty of football is going up against strong opponents. I think our team always got better as the game progressed. But our condition is improving, so that’s normal.
“As for Geoffrey Kondogbia, he still has to get to know football. We often forget that he’s very young. He needs time, he’s shy and sensitive. So he must improve, but it’s only a matter of time. He makes some mistakes, as does everyone, but he has quality.”
Torino the opponents today. Tune in. Join in. Enjoy.
Kick-off: 11.30am GMT