Gabriel 'Gabigol' Barbosa takes his chance with winner for Inter at Bologna
Inter came away from an ugly game against Bologna at the Dall'Ara Stadium with a full haul, courtesy of super-sub Gabriel "Gabigol" Barbosa.
Just when football's equivalent of a hangover was set to peter out into a draw or potential upset, the 20-year-old's introduction had fans in raptures.
Words can barely describe how they will have felt on 81 minutes, when a flowing move aided by Ever Banega's clever feet found Danilo D'Ambrosio and the oft-criticized veteran squared it to "Gabigol" to fire home the winner.
When an early candidate for flop of the season comes on to score and keep a streak of nine wins in 10 league games alive, you can't help but think that things are starting to come together for Inter after years of suffering.
Inter fans have gone from believing they bought the wrong Gabriel to hoping that their guy might just do something after all. Often compared to Ronaldo, "Gabigol" now shares another feature with "O Fenomeno:" netting his first Nerazzurri goal away to Bologna.
The Inter defence was solid and winning is what matters at this level, especially when Roma and Napoli are just guzzling points week in and week out. The full-backs showed personality and Ivan Perisic kept fighting.
The football was drab for long chunks of the game, despite some bright spurts here and there. Rodrigo Palacio and Eder's major struggles prove that someone like Patrik Schick is needed as a reliever.
Bologna are hardly elite opposition -- losing 7-1 here to Napoli earlier this month -- while Inter are still six points off the Champions League places.
Manager rating out of 10
7 -- The 3-4-2-1 helped the full-backs push forwards, but is this sacrificing a strength (Antonio Candreva) for a weakness? Inter were rather listless until Stefano Pioli's killer substitutions, which could have come earlier. The coach still deserves credit for revamping the team and keeping Bologna at bay. Why did he start Miranda, knowing that a card would see him skip the Roma game?
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Samir Handanovic, 7 -- Rescued the points mere minutes after "Gabigol's" winner by swooping on Vasilis Torosidis' close-range effort. He's decisive all right, and one of the best in the league.
DF Jeison Murillo, 6 -- Was taken off when Pioli reverted to a 4-2-3-1, which says a lot. Can hardly be accused of having a bad game and hasn't made a major mistake in a while.
DF Gary Medel, 7 -- Kept Bruno Petkovic under wraps and made some very timely tackles.
DF Joao Miranda, 7 -- Managed five tackles -- the most of anyone on the pitch along with Ibrahima Mbaye. Just because he operates in the shadows doesn't mean he isn't impactful.
MF Antonio Candreva, 5 -- Isn't used to the wing-back position, despite feeding several nice crosses in the first half. Declined after that, even when he was put back in his old role.
MF Roberto Gagliardini, 6 -- Was asked to dig in as a part of the 3-4-2-1 formation. Didn't contribute in attack and lost several balls, but was still influential despite not having a more defensive partner to help out.
MF Joao Mario, 5 -- Did not have a good game. Gave the ball away too often and was horrific from set pieces.
DF, Danilo D'Ambrosio, 7 -- Is often criticised in these pages, but he played well on both flanks. Chipped in a juicy ball for Perisic's volley before providing the winning assist on the right. Bologna's attacking wingers didn't have much of a game, did they?
MF Ivan Perisic, 6 -- Has arguably worked hard all season, but it's particularly coming across in recent weeks. His dribbles, flicks and turns are working better, too. Once found D'Ambrosio by patiently holding onto the ball in a small pocket of space. Had 71 touches, with only Joao Mario getting more among the attack.
Eder, 4 -- Was completely lost and should have been subbed earlier. Made mistake after mistake, killing a potential counter-attack with an errant ball and another promising chance with a terrible finish.
Rodrigo Palacio, 4 -- Disappeared from sight and even fluffed an easy opener. Anyone who complains about Icardi -- who scores even when he has bad games -- needs to remember the alternative on the bench.
DF Cristian Ansaldi, 6 -- Looked convincing on the left when he came on. No particular highlights for the Genoa man, who still pushed up and supported Perisic well, which is a rarity.
FW Gabriel "Gabigol" Barbosa, 7 -- What a time to burst onto the stage! After months of waiting to get his chance, he grabbed it with both hands. Could have had a second, but Adam Masina saved the ball off the line when a square pass could have worked better.
MF Ever Banega, 8 -- Was the true mover and shaker behind the goal, displaying his preternatural skillset in barely 20 minutes' worth of play. Could he work out in the 3-4-2-1?
Edoardo Dalmonte covers Inter Milan for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter: @EdoDalmonte.