Just seconds after the hour-mark of their match against Bologna, Inter looked on the verge of killing a potentially tricky game off.
Sinisa Mihajlovic’s side are renowned for their character and stubbornness, qualities that make them a difficult opponent for any Serie A outfit. However, the Nerazzurri had dealt well with the Rossoblu’s initial high pressing, by taking advantage of their quality and machine-like play in order to create spaces and hurt Bologna.
Romelu Lukaku had found a deserved breakthrough and his teammates could have doubled the lead several times over the course of 60 minutes, but the visitors made sure Inter still had something to worry about by forcing a couple of saves from Samir Handanovic.
Then came the sending off of Roberto Soriano and a penalty given away by Mitchell Dijks followed immediately after. It was the chance for Inter to see off the Felsinei and secure a crucial three points.
It’s quite incredible to think that the whole side, from coach Antonio Conte to the players, failed to understand how crucial that moment was and decided to let Lautaro Martinez take the resulting spot kick.
Whilst the Argentine has fully demonstrated his immense array of qualities, it has been quite clear from the start that his selling points don’t include penalty taking. His previous misses in the Nerazzurri shirt had led Conte to go with Lukaku as the player responsible for that specific task, a decision that had come for a reason.
Furthermore, the difficult time Lautaro is currently going through shouldn’t have been an incentive to change the pecking order for penalties.
However, the mistake by Lautaro was only the start of a calamitous afternoon for Inter, as it created a snowball effect that incredibly led the team to lose control of the match, something which is hardly justifiable considering that, even after that miss, the Nerazzurri were still in front against a 10-man Bologna.
In that moment, the Rossoblu coach Sinisa Mihajlovic must have seen signs of tiredness coming from the hosts, also suspecting that the missed penalty could leave a psychological mark in a side that had already exposed their fragility in dealing with key moments in previous outings.
This is why Mihajlovic suddenly made three changes, notably sending Musa Juwara in, a player that immediately made his presence felt by showing how his pace could wreak havoc on the Inter defence.
In hindsight, Bologna deserved to win a match in which their bravery and determination, in addition to their coach’s cleverness, allowed them to turn the tide, in a moment where many other teams could have just waited for Inter to finish them off.
However, Inter’s poor reading of that game was astounding, as they have once again highlighted a mental weakness which is probably their greatest problem so far.
Prior to the match, the Nerazzurri had a chance to close in on second place and now find themselves just one point above Atalanta, who will certainly give everything to finish in third spot once again.
The Serie A campaign is now entering its final stage and it is hard to say how Inter will face this last set of games. What is certain is that if they can lose stability so easily, and especially when things seem to go in their favour, the glimpses of great football shown will count for nothing.