Milan Skriniar and Ivan Perisic keep Inter Milan on perfect run in Serie A
To say Inter Milan's 2-0 win over Crotone on Saturday was an emotional roller coaster would be an understatement.
It was a nervy day and it looked as if Inter would stumble for the first time this season in the league but they kept going and were richly rewarded.
Milan Skriniar stabbed home from a corner on 82 minutes, his shirt being ripped apart from sheer joy as he wheeled away in triumph, and Ivan Perisic added another last gasp beauty to seal the three points.
Skriniar keeping his concentration to stab home the all-important opening goal embodied what Inter are doing right. While Crotone (and last year's Nerazzurri) lose focus and let in goals if things go wrong, the Slovakian kept his eye on the prize and took it home.
This team has its limits and they'll come through sooner or later, but this resilience is worth 15 points come May, maybe more. Perisic is a star, Borja Valero lasted 90 minutes and Matias Vecino gives order to the midfield.
Inter may have played badly, but at least letting Crotone attack opened up spaces in their defence. Sometimes it's about winning by playing ugly and that's what Inter managed.
Crotone muscled the visitors off the ball for some stretches, and the Nerazzurri's football only looked like it was working in the second half.
Roberto Gagliardini won't last very long if he keeps getting outplayed by Vecino in his cameos and Dalbert Henrique doesn't look like an attacking threat. Too many of Inter's squad have felt like highlight players (great highs, poor consistency) for a while and are still working on it.
Elsewhere, Mauro Icardi needs to improve his all-round game and Samir Handanovic has to master the easy things.
Manager rating out of 10
6 --The performance was poor, but boy does this team look motivated. Throwing Vecino in was the right idea, but shouldn't he be starting by now? Coach Luciano Spalletti needs a Plan B for when opponents want to throw him off balance.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Samir Handanovic, 6 -- Let an elementary strike, maybe two, bobble off his hands. Saved everyone's bacon by coming out well on Aleksandar Tonev, then palming away Marcus Rohden's effort at point-blank range. Seems to suffer when the sun is in his eyes more than your average keeper.
DF Danilo D'Ambrosio, 6 -- You can forgive the poor crosses because he held the line well. Adrian Stoian always had to go around him, and Bruno Martella was only dangerous with free kicks. Was there for support when Antonio Candreva needed and bit back at Crotone in the physical struggle.
DF Milan Skriniar, 8 -- Cons: lost a ball outside the box. Pros: everything else. Made crucial tackles, fought tooth and nail and poked home the winner. A commanding afternoon for the defender in both penalty areas.
DF Joao Miranda, 5 -- Struggled in the early physical battles, gave away a key ball and let Tonev in.
DF Dalbert Henrique, 5 -- Kept Rohden quiet until his big chance. Trouble is he still looks sketchy in attack, as if he doesn't know where to go.
MF Roberto Gagliardini, 5 -- Not a coincidence Inter played better when he came off. Was arguably floored in the box after the break.
MF Borja Valero, 6 -- Looked as lost as anyone in the first half, playing too high and missing key passes. Started finding holes in the defence in the second half. Made tackles and chased everything down.
MF Joao Mario, 5 -- Missed a sitter. Worked very hard but is still not quite in sync with the rest of the team. Hard to adapt to being in the hole when Perisic is switching flanks and Candreva is coming inside, too.
MF Antonio Candreva, 5 -- Never really achieved any penetration. Valiantly stepped in as an emergency full-back.
MF Ivan Perisic, 8 -- The late goal specialist. Is making Manchester United regret their cheapness -- refusing to meet Inter's £48 million valuation in the summer -- with his own personal highlight reel at the start of the season. Unlike Candreva, he can actually be trusted with the ball up front. Crafted a great chance by himself and always looked composed.
FW, Mauro Icardi, 5 -- His critics have a point: he needs to be sharper with his near post runs, as he fluffed one following a fine Perisic delivery. The same goes for the deeper crosses. At least he contributed in the lead up to Perisic's goal, but this was an off-day.
MF Matias Vecino, 6 -- Many criticised his signing, yet he is winning his duel with Gagliardini, who was last year's best addition.
DF Yuto Nagatomo, 6 -- Feisty and happy to help up front. The Spalletti serum hasn't worn off yet.
DF, Andrea Ranocchia, N/R -- Thrown in when the Nerazzurri switched to five-man defence and didn't make a mistake.
Edoardo Dalmonte covers Inter Milan for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter: @EdoDalmonte.