Mauro Icardi, Antonio Candreva get 8/10 as Inter remain unbeaten
Inter have now gone 14 games unbeaten (and are top of Serie A, but only provisionally) after defeating Cagliari at the Sant'Elia on Saturday night, courtesy of another Mauro Icardi double.
They had a difficult start, with the home side chasing the Nerazzurri down so mercilessly that Inter's first shot on goal didn't come until around the half hour mark. Though, being a Icardi finish, it promptly ended up in the back of net.
Cagliari's attempts at ramping up the tempo in the second half only resulted in Marcelo Brozovic scoring as a result of a nice cut-back from the on-form Antonio Candreva, himself fed by Milan Skriniar.
Though Leonardo Pavoletti pulled one back for the home side with a splendid effort on 71 minutes, it wasn't enough to turn the game on its head, with Inter pressing ahead and finding the third with seven minutes to go thanks to Cagliari's collective failings at the back.
It's a positive sign that teams are now trying to attack Inter early on, especially at home. It's the kind of measure one would use with Juventus, or any elite opponent. Sampdoria recently blitzed the Old Lady before sitting on their lead, and won 3-2.
Luciano Spalletti's men can win despite many of them not shining on the pitch, too. Cagliari weren't much of a threat after the break and once the initial onslaught had been outlasted, the Nerazzurri were in complete control.
Inter controlled the game like a side that considers matches like these to be its bread and butter. Having someone like Candreva running up and down the right is amazing, and Ivan Perisic's defensive effort is evidence that this side fights as a unit.
Some players, such as Roberto Gagliardini and Danilo D'Ambrosio, are poor under pressure. Skriniar and Joao Miranda still haven't hit their highest notes together; they're good enough but have plenty of room for improvement.
Manager rating out of 10
8 -- Spalletti didn't let his team panic; there's nothing wrong with soaking up the pressure early and striking when space opens up. Sending on Brozovic was instantly successful. This is a Spalletti wonderland. Would Conte or Simeone have done this well?
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Samir Handanovic, 8 -- The save off Leonardo Pavoletti was sensational. Missed an early pass, but we'll forgive him for that.
DF Danilo D'Ambrosio, 5 -- His 100th Serie A game as a Nerazzurro was one to forget. Gave the ball away too often and looked half a yard off the pace, at least.
DF Milan Skriniar, 5 -- Ever the clever distributor, his defensive contributions were more questionable. Should have had Pavoletti sewn up for the opener and it was not the only time he lost the former Napoli man, either. But he did make some big tackles in the second half.
DF Joao Miranda, 6 --.Struggled a lot with Pavoletti, but did better in a freer role. Who knew that this would be the case alongside the 22-year-old Skriniar?
DF Davide Santon, 6 -- Could be better at the back, but is clearly a lot more technical than Yuto Nagatomo: Borja Valero actually trusts him with the ball, too. It is becoming increasingly apparent that Santon and, yes, Marco Andreolli (now at Cagliari) should have been starting every week last season.
MF Matias Vecino, 5 -- Didn't really leave his mark on the game, and came off in the second half injured.
MF Roberto Gagliardini, 5 -- Looked in big trouble more than once, and a few nice tackles in the second half weren't enough to make up for it.
MF Borja Valero, 6 -- Didn't buckle under the pressure, and his passing started to make a difference in the second half. Cagliari can't keep up with his geometrie (an Italian footballing term for ball distribution, literally 'geometries') once they lost their initial impetus.
MF Antonio Candreva, 8 -- Oh my. If only every player could conjure up such a drastic volte-face. A roving troublemaker with an eye for the cross. Practically made two assists, and was involved in the third. Did a lot of grunt work in defence too.
MF Ivan Perisic, 5 -- One too many games where he hasn't brought much to the action; Eder may have been preferable.
FW, Mauro Icardi, 8 -- This is the sixth game this season in which the Rosario native has scored more than once. The Argentine is now the league's joint-top scorer with Dries Mertens, and even went on a solo run at some stage.
MF Marcelo Brozovic, 7 -- Is he more suited that Valero for games like this, running at defences on the road in a freer role? He scored a brace against Benevento, remember, but doesn't have the discipline to defend.
MF Joao Cancelo, N/R -- Came on with four minutes to go, didn't do much.
FW Eder, N/R -- Made an appearance on 90 minutes.
Edoardo Dalmonte covers Inter Milan for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter: @EdoDalmonte.