Winning beautifully is great, but there’s just something about winning ugly that feels even better.
Inter had to dig in deep against a continually pressing Atalanta side on Monday evening, and did so successfully to come away with another hard earned three points to maintain a six point gap at the top of Serie A.
Being honest, it wasn’t the Nerazzurri’s most stylish performance. They managed five shots all evening compared to Atalanta’s 13, were sloppy in possession and struggled to truly mark their dominance on the visitors. Their one shot on target, however, was the decisive goal in a 1-0 victory.
A loose airborne ball from a corner was met by Milan Skriniar, who was first to react in a crowded 18-yard box, smashing it into the back of the net and capturing the spirit of his side with the goal; resilient, alert and determined to come out on top.
Be it a catalogue of stops from Samir Handanovic, some legal rough and tumble from Inter’s back three or the tireless running done by Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez, ever player in Inter’s XI was focused on one thing – winning.
It’s a level of fighting spirit that goes beyond the quality of the pitch, more so as the calendar whittles down into the business end of the season. Inter combine a squad of immensely talented players with an unbreakable mentality that has been etched into them by Antonio Conte, who has often been a 12th player for his side on the touchline with his ranting, raving and tireless shows of emotion, even if he did overstep the mark on Monday evening and earn himself a booking.
Conte’s passion and tactical nous brought them painfully close to the Scudetto in the 2019/20 season, agonisingly finishing just one point behind winners Juventus. This Inter side looks recharged, however, and determined not to fall for the same fate as they treat every game with an aggressive all or nothing mentality. They’ve won seven consecutive league games, having not lost in Serie A since 6 January.
This now or never mentality is what continues to drive Inter to complete performances week in, week out; the Scudetto is all or nothing for the Nerazzurri.
Being knocked out of the Champions League at the group stages was bad enough, but finishing bottom of Group B meant Inter even missed out on rebounding into the Europa League. Their exit from the Coppa Italia in the semi-final added insult to injury, and added concern that there are still fragilities in the side.
Stadium sharing city rivals Milan remain in the Europa League knockout stages and are Inter’s closest competitors for the Scudetto. A six point gap is by no means a secure one, but the Rossoneri are combatting an injury hit squad while trying to fight on two fronts.
Juventus, meanwhile, sit third and are still desperately clinging onto the hope of silverware from either the Champions League or the final of the Coppa Italia. Having barely looked at the races all season for the first time in a decade, Inter have never been in with a better chance of becoming Italian champions once again.
The onus is now on Inter to continue stringing together impressive results and grinding them out with equally as resilient performances heading into the final dozen games of the Serie A season.
By no means are they there yet – 12 games is a long time to hold on to six points – but the lead is Inter’s to lose, and their mentality across each 90 minutes is exactly the right way to go in ensuring that the title comes to the blue side of Milan.