1-5 at Mestalla, truly a night to remember! An outstanding performance that joins the classic matches from recent years, which include thrashing Juve twice last season and winning Arsenal at Highbury. Italian teams have had a poor record of Iberian visits, the last win for an Italian team in Spain was from April 2003 by Juve. Inter's record at Spain has been horrible, with only 3 wins from 16 matches.
There were lots of doubts and criticism when the starting lineup was announced. The most worrying question was that why Il Capitano was not starting, when he already rested the match against Udinese. Many fans including me started to worry about Javier's situation in our squad. Furthermore Toldone was again shut out from the starting lineup, which is probably mentally difficult for Francesco, but you have to give credit to Mancio for doing this. Now our defense seems more solid, probably because they got a wakeup call, when Toldo was benched. Though 'Jimmy' Fontana has proven that he's in very reliable form, which probably gives more confidence to the whole team.
Mancini fielded a 4-1-3-2 lineup, with Cambiasso just above the defense line and Cordoba as a right back.
The match started off in a very fast way. Valencia immediately pushed forward and with both teams playing extremely fast one touch game, the pace got too high at times. That lead to some horrible passes and easy turnovers. The referee Urs Meier almost lost the control of the match in the first minutes when he had to book two players. The fast game brought also a few dangerous tackles and both teams were lucky to survive without injuries and more yellow cards. Cordoba was in difficulties in his flank with Angulo and if possible Cafe was even more brutal than usual, still he was effective as always. Both teams tried hard, but in the first 15 minutes only Valencia managed to create one good scoring chance with Di Vaio streching to a cross in front of goal, but Fontana made a beautiful save from the bottom corner.
Adriano tried a couple of times to rally around the Valencia defense and managed to get one weak shot towards Canizares, who made an easy save. Still the Brazilian's footwork in his dribbling was exceptional.
After 20 minutes Valencia started to get more and more possession and they managed to get near Inter goal, but still failed to create true chances. Especially Stankovic, Emre and Favalli were sloppy in defense and gave the ball away several times too easily. Deki seemed to be having an offday, since he was running like a headless chicken and even worse made horrible challenges, which could've really hurt the Valencia players.
At half hour mark, Inter almost broke the deadlock, with Stankovic breaking into the penalty area from the left, just when everybody waited his shot, he passed it right to running Adriano, who saw his first touch shot go just inches wide of the near post. How unlucky it was. But just few minutes later Adriano again dribbled past several defenders and then passed to Emre, who found himself in the middle of the penalty area, but failed get enough power to his shot. The end of the first half was more or less Valencia attacking, but despite a dangerous corner, they failed to get real chances.
After the break for every Interista's joy Mancio decided to bring on Il Capitano, who replaced Burdisso, though there were nothing wrong with his performance. Maybe it was because Cordoba was booked and was playing 'hardball' with Angulo, so Mancio put Cordoba in his more familiar position in the centre and Javier took his famous place as a right back. At that time no one could predict what would happen, but it turned out to be probably the best 45 minutes of Inter I've ever seen.
Just after 2 minutes Favalli crossed a curling ball from the left to the just insed the penalty area where Stankovic headed the ball beautifully in the far top corner. Canizares could only stand and watch. But there were more to come. After the restart from the first attack Adriano crossed from the right wing and Curro Torres got a slight header, which fell right to Vieri's feet in penalty area. Bobogol volleyed it clinically in the left bottom corner and again Canizares could only stand still. At that time I was so excited that I probably woke up my neighbours. Leading 0-2 at Mestalla and seeing Bobo Vieri score really made my emotions fly high.
As usual when the home team is down, the visitor starts to defend more, but surprisingly Inter didn't get to all in defense, but still tried to make rapid counter attacks. Adriano was unlcuky when he managed to round Canizares and even got rid of another defender, but only saw his strike from a very tight angle hit the side-netting, when the goal was open. After that Valencia got more into the game and saw several opportunities wasted with Di Vaio, Baraja and Rufete. After 65 minutes Stankovic had the chance to finish off the match, when he was all alone against Canizares, but his shot was just wide of the left post. Right after that Di Vaio managed to fire from the right side of the box and saw his shot hit the far post with Fontana beaten. Earlier on Valencia has subbed Corradi in to replace Caneira. Always irritating Corradi dived in a box after corner kick when Matrix tugged his shirt just the same wasy Corradi tugged Matrix's.
Finally after 70 minutes Valencia got the goal that had been hanging in the air. The goal came with an excellent pass to right wing where Di Vaio ran to the box and passed to Aimar whose one touch shot went to the top corner. These kind of goals are extremely hard to prevent. With the energy from the goal Valencia pushed forward even harder. At that time Mancini decided to replace clearly tired Bobogol with Van Der Meyde. That sub could be named as the sub of the year, cause right after that Adriano gave an excellent pass to Van Der Meyde, who dribbled the defender with his first touch and then shot just under Canizares with his second touch of the day. The Dutch "Archer" really got a fantastic start. With 1-3 and only 14 minutes left Valencia seemed to be giving up.
5 minutes after the last goal, we saw an trademark run on right flank by 'the one and only' Il Capitano, who played a nice one-two with Adriano and then broke into the area past a defender then beautifully passed back to Adriano who was left alone in front of goal, where he had all the time and space in the world to make it 1-4. This certainly sealed the match. What a remarkable run from Javier Zanetti! Right after the goal Adriano finally was replaced with Cruz. Now with VDM and Cruz in the attack Cruz almost scored the fifth from VDM's excellent pass, but Cruz failed to make a good contact on the ball in front of goal. 2 minutes later it was Stankovic who set up Cruz, but he was unlucky to get on the scoresheet since his shot was just wide. Finally in the dying minutes Stankovic set Cruz again up with a through ball and this time 'El Jardinero' buried it. What a fantastic return also for Cruz, he seemed so happy as the whole team. Even though 'El Jardinero' has never been my huge favourite it really made me glad to see him score, since he's had few injuries and hasn't had much chances to play this season.
So after the fifth Urs Meier whistled and Valencia found themselves totally slaughtered at Mestalla. In two weeks time the teams will meet at Meazza. Valencia will probably try to get the revenge, but when Inter is playing like this, no one can beat us.
Inter player ratings:
- a couple of excellent saves, solid and reliable
- excellent defending and we got see two of his trademark runs, of which the latter lead to a goal.
- was a bit too brutal and uncomfortable as a right back, in the second half got to his normal level, a solid performance.
- very solid, this is the Matrix everyone wants to see.
- he was good, he seems to be reliable despite his horrible debut, his future is looking bright.
- was sloppy in defense, got his rating up with the excellent cross which set up the 0-1 goal. Defensively I find him too risky.
- excellent work, fantastic interventions and good tackles, he controls the ball perfectly and gives his everything.
- was again quite slow, clearly suffered with his defensive duties, could've done more in attack, still an okay performance.
- gave the ball away too many times, still some good runs and few good steals. He can do more.
- a goal and an assist, the first half wasn't that good. hould control his temper, yet extremely fast and always in the right place. Sloppy in defense.
- MOM definately, a goal and 2 assists. He was the danger and created a lot excellent chances, not just for himself. He's a machine.
- a fair match and a good goal for Bobo. He seems to be clearly in better form than in the beginning of the season. His movements are faster and smoother.
- a goal and an assist. He really enjoyed to play without any defensive duties. We can rely on him, if we have lots of injured strikers. He could cut to centre more, now he seemed to be like on railrod tracks in the right flank.
- normally I wouldn't rate with these minutes, but let's make an exception. Cruz seemed to be very good, though maybe Valencia's defenders didn't care anymore. He could've scored a hat-trick in 10 minutes, luckily managed to score in the injury time.
La bella Inter was just outstanding tonight. The first half was difficult, but still we tried all the time and after the goals we didn't just sit back and wait. Adriano-Vieri partnership is starting to work as they both set eachother up in very good chances a few times. I realli like this, besides they seem to like eachother a lot (and no I don't mean it like that you perverts). Now when we get Oba back, we'll have a killer trio with Adriano-Oba-Bobo, they all have different characteristics and it's Mancini's job to make the right choices. This was a perfect warm-up for Derby della Madonnina.