Inter won again, improving to 6-0 in the season, but they had to go the extra mile to defeat Sampdoria and responded with great character in a difficult situation, which resulted in the most entertaining game of the week in a Serie A round that had few lopsided results and low-scoring matches.
Antonio Conte rotated the squad a lot, changing seven men compared to the midweek round and inserting Alessandro Bastoni, Roberto Gagliardini and Alexis Sanchez, who started for the first time, in lieu of Diego Godin, Nicolò Barella and Romelu Lukaku. Eusebio Di Francesco was looking for new solutions after losing four of the first five matches and fielded a 3-5-2 with Julian Chabot substituting the suspended Jeison Murillo in the back, Karol Linetty and Jakub Jankto flanking Albin Ekdal in the midfield and Emiliano Rigoni next to Fabio Quagliarella up front.
The Nerazzurri cracked the game wide open with a two-minute flurry in the middle of the first half, with Stefano Sensi again leading the charge, as he found the target with a strike from distance that was inadvertently deflected by Alexis Sanchez and was thus assigned to the midfield per the new UEFA rules. The Chilean newcomer did get his goal shortly thereafter, pouncing on an imprecise shot by the ex-Sassuolo man few meters away from the goal after beating the offside trap with perfect timing. He had not hit the net in almost a year. They could have put the game on ice as the opponents looked lifeless in the first 45 minutes, but Lautaro Martinez sent a good attempt wide and Emil Audero rejected another Sensi effort.
The script was flipped the beginning of the second half when Sanchez was sent off as he picked up the second yellow card on a blatant dive after a sensational action by Lautaro Martinez had created havoc in the box.
The Blucerchiati took advantage of the situation right away and clawed back into the game thanks to a precise cross-shot by Jakub Jankto that was slightly rerouted by Milan Skriniar. It was just the second time the Beneamata had conceded this season.
Conte trotted out Lukaku and Danilo D’Ambrosio and the Biscione found a fortuitous but seminal goal with Roberto Gagliardini six minutes later: the midfielder failed to latch onto a wonderful through ball in the heart of the box, but his touch still forced a difficult save by Audero and he was then able to punch in the subsequent tap-in.
Gianluca Caprari and Ronando Vieira tried to re-open the contest with long-range efforts, but the free kick of the former was wide and the strike of the latter was brilliantly parried away by Samir Handanovic. Fabio Quagliarella had two chances in the box, one on a header and then on a possible tap-in on the far post, but it has not been his season thus far and he could not find the mark this time either.
Inter stay top of the table, while Sampdoria remain at the bottom as the rumours about a potential coaching change continue to swirl. The Nerazzurri will host Juventus in a monumental clash next week, while Sampdoria will face Verona away.
In the fantasy game, Sensi hauled in six points as he was credited with an assist too, Linetty and Gagliardini picked up four for scoring, Martinez and Linetty two and one respectively for a helper, while Sanchez’s busy game generated two points.
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