Andrea Stramaccioni stressed that Inter should “not fear anything” ahead of their last 16 Europa League tie against Tottenham Hotspur. “This match will be Tottenham-Inter and not just Gareth Bale against Inter,” highlighted the Italian tactician. Alongside defender Juan Jesus in their pre-match Press conference, the pair emanated an air of confidence in handling the Welshman and his colleagues.
In the first meaningful action of the outing Bale towered above Esteban Cambiasso to head the ball into the corner of Samir Handanovic’s net. Stramaccioni could only slump further into his seat as Man-of-the-Match Gylfi Sigurdsson prodded home a Jermain Defoe rebound a mere quarter of an hour later. Ricky Alvarez exemplified the visitors’ collective first half effort when he squandered a simple opportunity.
Stramaccioni’s training ground altercation with Antonio Cassano has proved to be the tipping point of several weeks of tension. Lacklustre performances, coupled with a key injury to first choice forward Diego Milito in the previous round of the competition, have dented the moral in the dressing room, and subsequently stunted the side’s growth in the results department both domestically and in Europe.
Rodrigo Palacio’s strike after the interval was the only shot Inter registered on target in the entire outing. Captain Javier Zanetti was the single player that provided much needed grit, but it was all in vain as Andre Villas-Boas humiliated his opposition tactically. Walter Gargano could not deal with Mousa Dembele, while youngster Mateo Kovacic was too isolated to make a positive impact.
Cambiasso was once again found wanting from Jan Vertonghen’s header early in the second half, and the goal has all but sealed the Nerazzurri’s fate in the tournament after several signs they might still possess a chance were lost. Despite the fact Bale will be suspended for the second leg after his dive, Spurs have the capabilities to hold out for the result and inflict further damage at San Siro.
Inter now have to evaluate their immediate future. The momentum for the Champions League places and that coveted third spot has fallen in Milan’s territory. Stramaccioni’s future will also have to be discussed. He may not be to blame for some of the club’s questionable work on the transfer market, but his recent inability to begin matches on the right foot has to be questioned.