I should’ve seen this coming. A team of title contenders travel to a newly promoted side for a midweek tie. The bigger team haven’t won all season. Rudderless players have struggled to adapt to their leader’s way of thinking and fluidity looks a million miles away. The new coach is already under pressure: his inflexibility is costing the team and his stubbornness, if it continues, will drag him to the gallows.
The smaller side are fired-up. This is their first season in the top flight in over 50 years. A modest side, they play in a tiny stadium and lack the star power of their prestigious opponents. Their shoestring-assembled squad has taken has won as many points as the bigger side in the first two games, but it shouldn’t be long before the gulf in class evens things out and the teams are far apart.
This is the minnows’ biggest game in years. More accustomed to Lega Pro than Serie A, they are like a mouse walking into the jaws of a lion. They’re huge underdogs despite their visitors’ woes, and they’d be delighted to snatch a draw and walk away with a point…
The script was perfectly set for an upset, but I still made the “sensible” prediction. The difference between these groups of players was too big, I thought. Inter would labour to a single-goal victory, overcoming a few scares from their opponents but convincing nobody of their Scudetto credentials.
Oh, how wrong I was. Inter were second best in every department. Disorganised at the back and sloppy in possession, this was one of the worst Nerazzurri performances I’ve ever seen. They created next to nothing with their 64% possession, and it took a defensive clanger for them to find the back of the net. In short, Inter were dire and I’m not at all surprised that Gian Piero Gasperini has lost his job.
Novara, on the other hand, played very well. They didn’t dominate but their lead rarely looked under threat and the scoreline could’ve been even higher if they’d been more clinical. Marco Rigoni was excellent in central midfield and showed no compromise in his battle with Cambiasso and Sneijder. Novara’s enforcer rounded-off a battling display with two goals, and his contribution will be vital if the Biancoazzurri are to survive this year.
A lazy clearance from Luigi Giorgi that gifted Inter their goal was the only blemish on a good team performance. Andrea Mazzarani caused plenty of problems sitting behind the forwards, and Takayuki Morimoto put in a lively display alongside Riccardo Meggiorini. The Japanese striker isn’t the most prolific goalscoring but he certainly doesn’t lack determination.
This was a great team performance, a historic result, and a game that Novara fans will remember for the rest of their lives. The Biancoazzurri put Inter to the sword in an exciting David vs. Goliath tie, but browse the internet and you could be forgiven for forgetting Novara had even played last night. Inter’s capitulation and Gasperini’s sacking have dominated the headlines, with Novara receiving scant praise for their performance last night.
I’m pretty disappointed by this. Inter Milan are a huge club and it’s big news when they change manager, but it almost feels like Novara’s performance has been swept under the mat and forgotten about. Yes Inter were dreadful last night, and yes their managerial change deserves column inches, but so do Novara Calcio.
This is a club that was playing in the third tier just two seasons ago, has one of the smallest budgets in the league, and has an unheralded group of players none of whom I’d even heard of at the start of the week. They’ve just beaten Italian football’s most successful side of the past ten years. They play in the same division, but the difference in stature between Novara and Inter is huge, and these players have just accomplished something monumental. To put things into perspective, Inter were lifting the Champions League in the same season that Novara won promotion from the Lega Pro Prima Divisione.
It’s such a shame that their triumph hasn’t been given more credit. I’m sure they wouldn’t have fared so well against a more cohesive Nerazzurri, but lets not take anything away from the Biancoazzurri. They played exactly how a newly-promoted side should against a club of Inter’s size, and they fully deserved the three points. I can’t wait to see how they play against Atalanta on Sunday.