For their first away match of this young season, Inter marched into Sardinia to face the newly promoted Cagliari and left with a steady, decisive 0-2 win to build on an early strong start to the 2023-24 campaign.
With goals from Denzel Dumfries and Lautaro Martinez once again in the first half, the Nerazzurri were able to pacify the home team for much of the second half and achieve a perfect six out of the first possible six points.
“We had two great races. I had asked the lads to approach the match well,” Inter coach Simone Inzaghi said after the game. “We were playing against a newly promoted team in a stadium that drags you along, but we impacted the match well and scored two goals.”
Leading Cagliari from the bench was Claudio Ranieri, who had previously coached Inter as a mid-season hire in the tumultuous 2011-12 season. He was looking for a strong showing from his side in their home debut against his former team from over a decade ago.
For much of the first half, Inter relentlessly attacked the home team in their final third. In fact, the Nerazzurri held possession for 70 percent of the half. All this pressure first resulted in a Lautaro Martinez strike from the left side of the penalty box across goal only to bounce off the right post.
They would not miss again. Marcus Thuram, enjoying a strong start to his Inter career, took a turnover at minute 21, dribbled into the penalty box and passed to Denzel Dumfies who grounded the ball inside the far post past goalkeeper Bruno Radunovich.
Just two minutes later, Cagliari looked to strike back quickly as Nahitan Nández took a long ball in and was ready to strike on Inter goalkeeper Yann Sommer when Hakan Çalhanoğlu, fully embracing his new permanent role as regista, caught up to the Uruguayan midfielder and directed the ball to the left of the post forcing a corner kick.
Soon the visiting side would create some breathing room as Federico DiMarco raced down the left side of the pitch and sent a low cross just outside the penalty box to Lautaro who was able to sneak a strike through two Cagliari defenders to pound the back of the net making to the score 0-2.
An injury to forward Leonardo Pavoletti at the 35th minute forced Ranieri to make an early substitution for right winger Zito Luvumbo, who almost immediately impacted the game with his strength and speed.
Luvumbo’s effect on the game continued into the second half as he was involved in a near penalty at the 72nd minute that was waved off by referee Michael Fabbri. The Angolan winger did not relent as he stormed into the Nerazzurri final third at minute 89 and sent a deflected cross to left back Paulo Azzi who grounded a soft strike to the right post that Sommer was able to collect in a diving save.
The close calls in the second half did not go unnoticed by the Nerazzurri players. “We have to be more concentrated and concede fewer easy goals to the opponent, which happened last season,” Dumfries explained after the game.
“In the second we managed without suffering too much,” Inzaghi said. “I’m happy with how the guys work on a daily basis.”
Henrikh Mkhitaryan did suffer an injury and had to be substituted at the 82nd minute for Stefano Sensi. While Inzaghi described it as “just a knock,” we will soon see if the midfielder needs to miss any time.
One thing is for sure, Il Biscione remains undefeated with no goals yet conceded in these first two matchdays. They will look to challenge themselves at San Siro this Sunday against a stronger Fiorentina side with a hot Nico Gonzalez in attack before the first international break.