After a near perfect performance last weekend in their Derby di Sicilia triumph over Catania, the Rosanero left the San Siro empty handed on Sunday afternoon as a Santiago Garcia own-goal condemned the club to yet another road loss (their sixth in eight matches).
Unlike most of their away matches this term, Palermo put together a composed and organized performance that deserved more based on merit, but as we all know it is the final score that is most important of all.
The Rosanero travelled to the San Siro without their two best players in Fabrizio Miccoli and Massimo Donati (both suspended), but their absence on the pitch was not readily apparent. Gian Piero Gasperini lined up with his usual 3-4-2-1 formation, but it was clear from the outset that his side would be looking to counter the Nerazzurri rather than taking the game to them.
This was exemplified by Franco Brienza’s continual movement from an attacking position into the midfield during Palermo’s non-possession of the ball. Whether that was the right approach can be debated as Inter had conceded goals in their past seven competitive matches, meaning that a more positive approach to the match could have paid off. Regardless, the Rosanero were able to put Gasperini’s plan into practice for close to 75 minutes before the match was decided on a rather innocuous play.
The turning point in the match happened when Andrea Ranocchia advanced from his position in defence and sent in a cross from just outside the Palermo penalty box. At that moment Santiago Garcia, who until that point had put in a stellar performance, and made a lunge for the ball. Rather than putting it out for a corner, the ball was directed on goal and went past Samir Ujkani who could do little to adjust to the deflection.
Given how the match had developed, an own goal was the only way that Inter could break the deadlock as they had offered very little moving forward. The attacking trio of Diego Milito, Rodrigo Palacio and Coutinho were kept in check by Palermo’s back three and seemed incapable of putting Ujkani under any real pressure.
Even after Garcia’s own goal, Inter never came close to finding the second goal that would have sealed the match, which is a credit to the defensive solidarity that Gasperini has been able to create in recent weeks. A 0-0 draw would have been the fairest result and would have rewarded Palermo for their best away performance of the season. Instead, their troubles away from home continue to plague the club and must be dressed moving forward.
As I mentioned at the top of the column, the defeat was Palermo’s sixth road loss in eight matches. That puts them level with Chievo for most losses away from home, but the Flying Donkeys have managed to win once on travels away from home, something that has eluded the Rosanero.
With only two points from eight away matches (worst in the league), it cannot be overstated how critical it is for Gasperini and the squad to rectify the situation. Given that their home record is the eighth best in Serie A, it is easy to pinpoint why Palermo cannot definitively break away from the relegation pack and find themselves just out of the bottom three in 17th.
The positives that Gasperini has created at the club since joining are encouraging, but reversing the Rosanero’s fortunes away from home has not been one of them. He has certainly bought himself more time to work on changing that, but there will come a time (which could be sooner than expected) where encouraging performances will have to be traded in for points, regardless of how they are gained.
The impressive performance from Gasperini’s players should have brought home a precious point for Palermo’s fight up the standings. For a team that has struggled mightily in most of their trips away from the Renzo Barbera, a point against the mighty Nerazzurri would have been invaluable.
Instead, the loss was a bitter pill to swallow, especially given the difficulties they will encounter in the final fixtures of 2012. Matches against Juventus, Udinese, Fiorentina and Parma are difficult on paper, but as we all know matches are not won on the team sheet but on the pitch. Gasperini must get his players to play with the spirit they did on Sunday and with the returns of Miccoli and Donati, push forward to ensure that Palermo are on track to remain comfortable in the most important home of all-the Serie A.
Follow Adriano Boin on Twitter: @Boin44