The start of the 2004-05 season was made official for Inter today as they travelled north to play Basilea for qualification to the Champions League. Inter gained a 1-1 tie that gives them the advantage of the away goal but will need to take there chances better to progress at San Siro. Despite having a positive result, Inter can feel disappointed for the defensive laps that allowed Basel to tie the match and also the chances missed by Stankovic who hit the post from long range and Ze Maria hitting the cross bar from close range.
Mancini starts with the 4-4-2 formation with Zanetti and Favalli wide backs, Cordoba and Materazzi in the center of defence. Mancini loses Davids to injury before the match and goes with Cambiasso and Veron in the center with Stankovic on the left and Ze Maria on the right. Adriano and Recoba were the strike partners and it allowed Inter to play well and hold the pressing high and create chances.
The bright spots are Favalli at left back who shows his experience at tracking back, being in position but also going forward. Cambiasso made a real impact in the midfield as did Ze Maria who provided great width and offensive power with a few shots on goal, crosses and free kicks. Stankovic also confirmed that he is the real spark plug of this side while Veron disappointed for his inability to get into the match and distribute more of the ball.
As always its Adriano who is the star of this team and on a great rush Adriano shows all his skill as he gets the ball from Stankovic just outside the area. The young brazilian enters the area and beats two defenders with his strength and beats the rushing goalie to then slot the ball home just under the cross bar to make it 1-0.
It was a beautiful goal, one full of power, balance and heart. However a real defensive blunder allowed Basel to score as the Inter defence do not react quickly enough as Basel take a quick free kick which is then crossed and headed in for the 1-1 score. It really should not have been that easy, but a mistake by all players not paying attention cost Inter the goal.
The goal did not drop Inter however, and infact sparked them to play outright for the win. Lady luck though was again missing as Stankovic hits a great long range shot, beats the keeper but hits the inside of the post and sees the ball out.
It was a goal that needed to be scored because soon after the work rate was taking its toll on the Inter squad that is still in pre-season form while Basel is already weeks into there season. Basel began to take more of the inititive due to there better form and tested the Inter defence who looked shaky but in the end stopped what came at them. Cordoba was the real man of the match in that respect.
The K.O. Punch should have arrived before the half was over as a great counter-attack by Recoba and Adriano finds the goalie making a great save but only blocking the ball into the area. Ze Maria has the goalie out and the open goal but his first time shot rises too high and hits the crossbar and goes out.
In the second half the tired legs of the Inter players was very evident. Inter now was unable to press high like they were at the start and the tempo dropped. Ze Maria was still lively on the right and again made a great run and tested the keeper with a hard shot but it was saved.
Basel take more of the ball and with quick counters and good triangle movment begin to come at Inter more. Materazzi suffers the speed of the game but Cordoba makes up for the both of them with is great speed to shut down the attacks. When they did get through, Toldo saved the match with a few great stops of his own!
Ze Maria then has a free kick from the edge of the area that he hits sweetly with a bending curve. The goalie is beaten but the defender clears the ball with his head right on the goal line to deny Inter the goal. Mancini makes some changes and brings on Ventola for Recoba and Emre for Cambiasso. Adriano stays on and although he tried his best he was dead tired in the final stages and could not produce a second goal.
Overall the 1-1 scoreline is not a bad result, but given the posts hit and the Ze Maria free kick cleared off the line the game could have been over after this first leg. It was not to be, but what is evident is that Mancini is shaping this team. No long balls were used, players had sense of position and all of them moved with clear ideas and understanding on the pitch. Veron was disappointing however and he will need to make those passes and distribute the ball much better to have an impact.
We can be optomistic for the return leg at the San Siro on August 24th, especially if Inter can get closer to 100% form physically. With more training and of course the additions of many players missing like Vieri, Cannavaro, Martins and Davids Inter have the ball in there court to secure a Champions League spot and start the season off right!