ESPN Soccernet - Correspondents - FC Inter Milan
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FC Inter Milan
Posted by Gianni Serra on 11/03/2010

Tottenham beat Inter 3-1. Deserved. Full stop. At White Hart Lane free flowing football came only from one side and the reason was plain to see from the beginning. Benitez’s decision to insist on pushing up instead of defending deep, which is necessary when forwards run quicker than your fullbacks, smelled of nonsense.

Two weeks ago in Milan there was no way for Maicon to handle Bale, a fortnight later in London it was the same from the word go. Allowing the Welsh-rocket 30-40 yards to exploit behind Maicon it was a tactical suicide, which is amazing from an astute tactician like Benitez.

The second mistake of day made by the Spanish coach was sticking to two holding midfielders like Muntari and Zanetti in opposition to two playmakers such as Modric and Huddlestone. The Inter pair’s creativity was embarrassing compared to Spurs duo's. Against Tottenham the European defending champions reminded me of Liverpool’s negative tactical approach after Xabi Alonso’s departure: Muntari-Zanetti just like Lucas-Mascherano, same lack of vision. Modric’s lovely pass delivered to Van der Vaart at minute 19 could never come from Saviero or Sulley.

The Dutchman couldn't waste such a beautiful pass and dutifully scored. A free-kick from Sneijder at minute 40 was Inter best opportunity in the first half but Cudicini denied the equalizer. From possible 1-1 to 2-0 is a short step: at minute 61 Crouch didn't miss a Bale cross. Spurs outclassed Inter. Bale was magnificent but Van der Vaart, Lennon, Huddlestone, Modric were all very good.

Despite scoring at minute 80 Samuel Eto'o took a day off. Good news is Milito's back: 20 minutes in which he looked very sharp. No rusty at all: the Argentinian nearly scored after 40 seconds and again with the last shot of the game hitting the bar. Pavlyuchenko scored the third for Spurs but again it was a Bale gift. Inter and Spurs lead Group A with 7 points, two more than Twente.

Man of the match. Gareth Bale. Simply unstoppable. Real Madrid, Manchester United, Barcelona and Inter are already chasing him and after his last display it's easy to understand why.

UEFA Champions League 2010-11 - Day 4 / London, White Hart Lane


Tottenham: Cudicini; Hutton, Gallas, Kaboul, Assou-Ekotto; Lennon (Palacios 85'), Huddlestone, Modric, Bale; Van der Vaart (Jenas 46'); Crouch (Pavlyuchenko 76'). Manager: Redknapp
Inter: Castellazzi; Maicon, Lucio, Samuel, Chivu; J.Zanetti, Muntari (Nwankwo 53'); Biabiany (Coutinho 64'), Sneijder, Pandev (Milito 71'); Eto'o. Coach: Benitez

Referee: Kassai (HUN)
Goals: Van der Vaart 18', Crouch 61', Pavlyuchenko 89'; Eto'o 80'
Yellow cards: Hutton, Jenas; Samuel, Lucio


Posted by Pedro on 11/03/2010

Tonight Mourinho at AC Milan will show what it takes to win in Europe. Rafa is letting us down, he won only one European Cup in his whole life. He is a loser. Biabiany and Pandev were pathetic, after their substitution the team played better. Milito was in a good shape so why not starting with him and Eto'o upfront? Even Coutinho was needed earlier as he is faster than Pandev. And please Rafa get rid of that useless Chivu no need to wait for Bale arrival to pack him. Santon, Zanetti and Cordoba can do the job far better on the left.

Posted by Enosh Onjulah on 11/03/2010

I think it was a difficult match for inter since they have not been playing a flowing football Rafa is now on pressure to match Jose but congrats to Eto'o for that goal even though he did not keep up to his standard he still leads with goals in the championship and serie a goodluck Eto'o for Rafa let him go back to the drawing board and come out briliant to keep the Champs on course otherwise they will not make it in knock out stage ! good luck!

Posted by loli79 on 11/03/2010

Thank you Gianni. Right on the money in my opinion.
I got very confused when I saw what squad Benitez put together. Midfield was simply under equiped. For all the talk of having to beat the Spurs so key players could be relaxed, I for one seriously did not see genuine effort.
The team looked disconected. I hate bashing players but Sulley got to go. Maybe it is because I never liked the kid, but he has nothing this Inter team needs. Pandev was nowhere and Bale was given way too much space.
This zone defending that Rafa likes so much has either got to stop, or he has to work harder with the players and be quick about it.
Castelazzi, what can I say. It is never a good thing for a keeper to be on bench. IMO he was out of position on the second and third goal. The first goal could be stopped too. If he wants to be a great keeper he has to work harder.
Chivu should've been replaced by Santon a long time ago.
Sorry for the long comment but am pissed and hope to put this behind soon.

Posted by Sam on 11/03/2010

The game certainly left a lot to be desired. One to attribute the problems in midfield to the number of losses that Inter had in that department but in my opinion questions have to be asked over Benetiz's stubborn refusal to change his tactics. Whether he had a point to prove on his return to England or whether it was out of sheer ignorance, there is no way he should have played that formation and the high defensive line.
He was simply gifting Spurs the advantage. I accept that a coach wants to put his stamp on a team but we do not have the player to implement his tactics. We need a deep lying playmaker and none of our midfielders fulfil this role. Sneijder is lethal on the counter when he is passing first time into space, whilst Milito likes running at defenders. Most of our midfielders are counter players too, laking in passing quality but having ball winning skills.
Very disappointing to watch this game. Benetiz has a LOT to prove.

Posted by Anonymous on 11/03/2010

benitez is a blatant fool, no doubt about it. He stuffed up liverpool now inter. He is stubborn, and wants to impose his own style on inter just for the sake of it. he has fukd around with the side far too much.

Posted by kay on 11/03/2010

I was left aghast when I saw the way Benitez set up his team. I have been asking my self "is the guy as good as i think?". There is definitely a massive difference between being good and smart. Benitez, good? yes, smart? i doubt it. inter is made up of very good, experienced but old players. If anything, pace is one of their weaknesses. To allow tottenham to expolit this is really unpardonable. what happened to double-marking on the wings and defending deep whilst playing with the lines close to deny tottenham any inch of space? Benitez has an idea about how he intends his teams to play; he will always want them to play that way whether he has the players that suit the formation or not. This is one of the major differences between Mourinho and Benitez!

Posted by ace on 11/03/2010

After Bale's showing in the first leg, how could Benitez leave Maicon hung out to dry like that. An additional midfielder would slow Bale down and allow Maicon to play his true game, as a dangerous counterattacker. The Benitez/Mourinho discrepancy is huge.

Posted by Anonymous on 11/03/2010

A positive thing did come out of this game: one less match in charge for Rafa! No way Murinho would have lost this probably would have been a really boring 1-1 draw but who cares? We would be leading the group and in a great position to win it.

Posted by dave on 11/03/2010

The writer is contradicting himself. You first of all complain that Rafa played with two holding midfielders when Tottenham was playing with two attacking midfielders. HOW ELSE DO YOU STOP TWO OR THREE (SNEIJDER) ATTACKING MIDS? DO YOU WANT ONLY ONE DM DEFENDING TWO ATTACKING MIDS? OR DO YOU WANT COUTINHO DOING THIS? You contradict your statement that Inter should have defended deeply. If anything else, Rafa should have used 3 defensive mids like Mourinho. You complain that Benitez is negative, well in case you forgot Mourinho is one of the most negative coaches in football so what are you talking about? The only creative attacker that Mourinho used in the midfield was Sneijder so get your facts straight.

Posted by Caging on 11/03/2010

Fair point Dave. I thought the exact same thing. The best solution was to revert to 4-3-3 Mourinho-esque. Two major mistakes really, One the formation, Two the defensive line based on the personel availeble. Fact is for Rafa's systems to work they need quick and young players with a deep-lying playmaker. Similar to the old Milan side of Sacchi. The team needs players in midfield below the age of 27, In full back below the age of 25, and wingers below 25. If you have the speed and sustanance in players you can get away with playing the high-line with alot of zonal-press. The result would have been a high scoring game but not a loss though like now.

Think of the 4-4 draw with Arsenal as an example and that game had Alonso as well,Hence they did not loose. Same playing style without Alonso and they lost. Liverpool might have still drawn that game if it was a 3 man defensive midfield. In that scenario it depends on what you like on offer, drab draw or high scoring entertaining draw?

Posted by bob on 11/03/2010

Don't be worried. If Rafa does not get results, he will be fired by Moratti - the best owner in football. He is only on a 2-3yr contract.
Also, it makes a difference missing Julio Cesar, Stankovic, Cambiasso, Motta, Mariga. If they had a healthy midfield Zanetti would start at left back and their midfield would have taken over. Relax inter fans, just need to get healthy again.

Posted by John Smith on 11/04/2010

Maicon should have watched the Everton vs. Spuds game and got some tips from Phil Neville who had Bale in his back pocket for the whole game.

Posted by Zaid on 11/04/2010

As with most tifosi, I watched the horrible game in disbelieve. How could Benitez deployed the team like he did? Immediately you could sense something is not right with the way the team play.

I had enough with his stubbornness to enforce his preferred tactics, even when its clearly not smart to do so. High defensive line is totally not suitable for Inter.

Benitez clearly hate to admit it, but Mou know so much more how to mould team to play according to their characters (and the opponents too).

i pity maicon in particular, he isn't guilty. he was killed by his own coach. chivu suffered the same fate too.

this game just demoralised and shamed many players and thats unjustified. no wonder many liverpool fans are happy when benitez left, they have had it for too long.

I hope Moratti will listen to the tifosi & judge by what he have seen so far. Benitez will dismantle and destroy Inter. Replace him with smart coach who place Inter before his own agenda.

Posted by jimmy on 11/04/2010

why do you have to leave mariga..and far mariga is the man who could have neutralized bale with his hard tackling methods please mariga come back

Posted by moratti guestos on 11/04/2010

i agree with jimmy that mariga shd be the man who seems to be forgotten ..we need this guy back and we should sell sulley

Posted by Sam on 11/04/2010

To Dave and Caging, I dont think Mou played three DF with Inter, particularly in his latter months with Inter when we won, he prefered a similar formation put out by Benetiz with three strikers, three mids (Sneijder and 2 DF) and 4 defenders. The big difference was that his defensive line was very deep allowing opposition space in their own half but shutting shop in our quarter. He also expected the two wingers (normally Pandev and Eto'o) to track back and defend. Eto'o himself considered himself to be more a defender under Mou! Under Mou, Pandev or Eto'o would have been responsible for Bale. Biabianby didnt do this, despite having the pace. He should have been shooting back as soon as Inter lost the ball to support Maicon.
Without this defensive security, Inter were left open to the pace of Spurs and Bale in particular.
Also does anyone else worry whenever anyone runs at Chivu? Everytime he seems to get skinned, just lucky Bale wasnt a right winger!

Posted by Gianni on 11/04/2010

@ loli79. Castellazzi is an average keeper. As you rightly pointed out it was out of position twice against Spurs.
@John Smith. Rafa will never accept David Moyes can be more astute than him. I am afraid he is.
@ Jimmy. Mariga will get more opportunites due to the increasing astonishing number of injured players.
@ Dave and Caging. Two holding midfielders are OK to play counterattack. If you want to dictate game's tempo you need players (at least 1 out of 2) who can make good use of the ball otherwise you have to accept to play counterattack and place your defensive line 20 yards deeper.
@ Zaid. "High defensive line is totally not suitable for Inter". Certainly not for current Inter.
@ Sam. 'Benetiz has a LOT to prove'. And Chivu too, I'd add. At the moment he's far below Maxwell, Zanetti and Santon standards, just to name his last predecessors. Thanks for explaining so well differences between Mou's 4-2-3-1 and Rafa's and reminding that Inter never played 4-3-3 last season.

Posted by abdul on 11/04/2010

great night for spurs! really proud of the guyz. but hey where is gio dosantos???

Posted by Abyssight on 11/04/2010

I don't see the problem of two defensive midfielders. Inter has played 4-2-3-1 for a long, long time. It is by far their most familiar formation, and they naturally played it in an important game. With everyone else injured, Zanetti and Muntari were the only two choices. The passing will improve when Stankovic and Cambiasso return.

Posted by Caging on 11/04/2010

To Gianni and Sam,

I am aware that Jose did utilise 4-2-3-1 throughout his tenure at Inter and the deep defensive-line with wingers doubling up. I was talking about this game as a stand-alone that the 4-3-3 based on the personel available would have been a better option. Jose did revert to his trademark throughout the CL campaign when he needed to, Usually during the game not as a starting formation, Just look at the CL final when counter-attacking.

To be honest I would not bet on Rafa switching to a deeper-line and telling his wingers to double up as much as Jose did. I just don't see it happening. This is the main reason why opinion was divided among LFC fans. He is stubbourn but so is Jose in various ways. Jose made up in alot of ways in his personality.

Posted by dapo adesuyi ilorin, nigeria on 11/04/2010

Rafa saw the handwriting on the wall a week earlier in Milan but surprisingly failed to read it. straightforward tactics would have curtailed the threat of bale and lennon since their major weapon is pace.Even with the injuries,a deeper defensive line and tracking back by pandev and biabany would have done the trick but Rafa is way too adamant to shuffle his pack.poor decision making on his part lost the sorry for Maicon. he isn't that bad.

Posted by Ikki on 11/04/2010

It's funny and sad at the same time to read "Rafa has only won one European cup, he is a loser!". Amazing, just amazing. Rafa has actually been in 2 finals - before St. Jose ever did. And you say "only one" as if it's easy to win even one. There aren't that many coaches around that have won one, let alone gotten to two finals. It took Ferguson 20+ years of management to achieve that.

On the game: Inter had half a team missing. Mariga, Cambiasso, Stankovic, Julio Cesar and Motta. Milito had just come back from injury and Muntari got injured in the match.

Tottenham were simply better and the problem wasn't playing too high up. For christ's sake Bale beat Maicon when the RB was very deep several times. Bale beat him every which way. He was just unstoppable. Rafa is supreme in negating the opposition's strengths - just look at how successful a rather limited Liverpool side was against the big teams over the years. The way Arbeloa put Messi in his pocket for example.

Posted by Ben on 11/05/2010

Inter didn't control the ball enough, Wesley needed to see more of the ball in Spurs half instead of getting it straight out of defense. Its funny to see people say that certain players can contain Bale.

1) against Everton Pinnear contained our creative wingers and Bale couldn't on the ball enough.

2) Merchandise United controlled the midfield making supply to Bale all the more difficult.

The way teams control Bale is to stop him getting the ball, no right back has managed to calm him yet. Against Everton he was a menace crossing the ball in on his wrong side in the final 20 minutes.

I hope he stays at Spurs. Its exciting to have a genuine football team and not a huge list of egos doing well for a change.

Posted by Ian on 11/05/2010

Good move Rafa joining Inter. Statistically, Inter shouldn't win the UCL and they've already won Serie A 5(?) times consecutively. So he'll have a defence at season's end - very convenient!
I don't rate him as a manger. Without Steve Gerrard, he would have won nothing with Liverpool

Posted by Westmark on 11/05/2010

@ Ian: Astute point and most probably correct.

Did any of you consider the fact that maybe it doesn't matter what tactics Benitez used? Perhaps, Tottenham were the better team on the day. In fact, I doubt that a healthy Inter coached by Mourihno would have won on the day. Tottenham are an up and coming force. They have great players in amazing depth at virtually every position. Harry Redknap is a fine manager and I think that you'll see them establish themselves both in the premier league and in europe very shortly.

Posted by lil on 11/05/2010

@ Westmark

I think there is only very few teams that ever walked in this planet that can beat last years "healthy Inter coached by Mourihno" provided that they score first goal. I can think of 2004-2005 chelsea, Mourihno's porto, Madrid that won champions league. The thing with last years inter was that team didnt had any character..I mean a fixed way of playing, it was constantly chainging according to opposition in hand some time it plays where expansive football other time scrapy sitting deep.. counter attacking football. They always played to their players strength and very much cared about cancelling out big threats and were so well drilled. I dont beleave if it was last years inter there will be any space for Bale to run behind diffenders. As Pandav one said last years inter was not a football team it was ca cammadno unit :) . People think jose wins because of the money he gets to spend please tell thet to Mancini may be he havent heard about it.

Posted by Sam on 11/05/2010

@ Ikki

Jose won the European cup with Porto the year before Benitez went to Liverpool, so good to see your one point you made was totally wrong, thanks for that input.

Secondly, I don't see how noone seems to blame Maicon for any of this? i understand a high defensive line doesn't help but surely as a DEFENDER he needs to shoulder some of the blame? His attacking ability definitely doesn't deserve extra defenders to help him...maybe he needs Ashley Cole's number to hear how to be a actual attacking fullback.

Posted by Jez on 11/05/2010

@ Sam

I couldn't agree more. Maicon has to take some responsibility there. Maicon should have gone into that game with 2 objectives:

1) Give Bale 10 yrds so he cant blow by you, dont need to tackle just slow him down
2) Show him onto his right foot

What did Maicon do? Met Bale to challenge and then SHOWED HIM THE LINE! On what planet is showing a left footed player like Bale (who's faster than you) the line a good idea. Maybe if you are in midfield show him the line so that he tries to push past and the right back can take the easy ball, but never should Maicon, as last man, show him the line. All he had to do was slow him down and send him inside.

Posted by Peter Aung (Burma) on 11/06/2010

for me, Inter were just missing all their first and so called second choice central midfielders. that made life difficult for them. especially they could not cope with missing of Cambiasso. I don't think young player(s) lke Bibiany is ready to step up at a spot in first eleven. Inter disparately needs C.Ronaldo style player with the formation they play (in my opinion). the player who could play as a winger or wide-forward, who could cross-in the ball to the penalty box and also who could cut-in from the wing and takes a shot. Afley would do fine.

Posted by Joa on 05/10/2012

Rafa won't quit Liverpool knowing that by doing so Liverpool will splimy nosedive out of sight those fans' who think Rafa is the root of Liverpool's problems haven't a clue Liverpool have suffered Boardroom instability ever since these new owners took over. Oh and those people who can count yes Rafa has spent a3220M (or whatever) but his total capital spend (ie new money given to him by the Board) since he's been manager is around a340M, the rest being profits from player-sales. I think you'll find a340M over 5 years (ie a38M per year) is probably the lowest capital spends of all teams in the Premier League.

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