Udinese continue resurgence with annihilation of Inter Milan
Udinese manager Francesco Guidolin was slightly taken aback by a question posed to him ahead of the visit of Andrea Stramaccioni’s Internazionale to the Stadio Friuli on Sunday lunchtime. “I certainly do not envy Stramaccioni or anyone else for that matter, even the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson. I am proud of my career and to have reached this stage without help from anyone,” asserted the 57-year-old tactician.
The Inter boss was fast-tracked from the outfit’s Primavera youth side straight to the top job at the age of 36. In contrast, the Treviso native entered the management game in 1986, but to date has never taken the reigns of one of Serie A’s giants despite successful spells with several Italian clubs. With the Fruliani facing the Nerazzurri, Guidolin had a perfect opportunity to prove his point.
Inter controlled the opening phases of the outing with Antonio Cassano creating space for the pacey Álvaro Pereira and Jonathan to exploit on either wing. Rodrigo Palacio sparked to life leading the line in the absence of Diego Milito, and his counter attack forced Maurizio Domizzi to take him to ground in the box past the twenty minute mark. Referee Antonio Giannoccaro judged the dramatic fall to be a dive, and duly booked the Argentine despite heated protests.
Udinese signaled their intentions through captain Antonio Di Natale, and his free kick from distance cracked off the crossbar within the opening half an hour of play. Nerazzurri goalkeeper Samir Handanovič, returning against his former club, had his work cut out with the veteran striker upfront alongside Luis Muriel. The sides cancelled each other out in the opening half, with both missing a host of players through injury, suspension and African Cup of Nations duty.
Cassano was threating to find a breakthrough after the interval, and his mazy run eventually ended at the feet of Jonathan. The Brazilian inexplicably poked the ball wide of Željko Brkić’s post, and in squandering the best chance of the game handed the initiative to Udinese. Andrea Lazzari began to exert his power on the match in midfield. The on-loan Fiorentina man found Di Natale in the box past the hour mark, and the Italian breezed past make shift centre back Esteban Cambiasso to open the scoring.
Juan Jesus was shown a second yellow card only a minute later to make matters worse for Inter. Muriel returned to the field, having been stretchered off following Juan’s foul, to capitalise on the advantage of an extra man with a quarter of an hour to play and doubled the scoreline. Five minutes later Di Natale pounced on another superb ball across the face of the area from Lazzari to secure his brace and the victory over an opposition that was truly outplayed in the second half.
The Zebrette have made the ideal start to the new year with the result, and have now gone five matches unbeaten in the league. However, the club’s campaign this season has been marred by fragility and instability on the pitch, which has led them to a mediocre ninth place in the table. The heights of qualifying for the Champions League last term disappeared in a play-off defeat on penalties to Braga, and their stuttering start has even see them crash out of the Europa League.
Owner Giampaolo Pozzo has insisted on an intricate scouting system being the only solution for bringing in new talent. Guidolin has watched his best players move on every transfer window, and a new young batch of future stars land at the Friuli expected to maintain a level of expectation centered on European qualification. In 2012, Kwadwo Asamoah and Mauricio Isla moved to Juventus while the year prior Alexis Sánchez, Gökhan Inler and Cristián Zapata all found new challenges.
Guidolin miraculously managed to marshal Udinese to third on the final day of the season last May, despite seeing his team gutted that summer. This time around the fresh-faced arrivals have not lived up to that unrealistic level of expectation, and have therefore slipped down the table. Nine stalemates in 19 matches does not bode well for the club, and despite proving his point to the press, Guidolin must now build on the Inter victory and look to challenge Serie A’s hierarchy in the second half of the season.Tagged in: football, Inter Milan
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