This is why Inter are top of the league.
In the midst of an almost unwatchable match, I Nerazzurri still managed to produce one moment of guile and cunning to break the deadlock and then, once pegged back, pulled a stroke of pure genius out of the bag to steal the three points.
Antonio Conte’s men didn’t have it all their own way and they were made to work extremely hard by a plucky and fearless Torino side, but in the end they possessed just the right amount of quality to get the win.
And that magic arrived in the form of Inter’s bench boys.
The first half was a tepid affair and the league leaders were forced to survive a serious scare when defender Lyanco headed against the post. Conte delayed before shuffling his pack but, having seen the lack of response in the opening minutes of the second half, he made his move.
On came Ashley Young and Christian Eriksen and the game instantly switched up a gear on their arrival. Inter fans were bemused at the decision to leave Eriksen out of the starting lineup in place of Roberto Gagliardini and the Italian lived up to their fears, failing to make any inroads or take a gamble in possession.
The Danish playmaker took that responsibility upon his shoulders with a smile, and less than ten minutes after stepping onto the pitch, he was making the difference for this flatlining side.
Eriksen is prepared to lose four or five balls in order to supply a killer pass for his teammates, and while this attitude may infuriate Conte, it’s exactly what’s needed in this type of tetchy fixture. The midfielder collected possession halfway inside the Torino half and without even thinking fizzed a pass vertically into the feet of a teammate on the edge of the penalty area.
That sudden change of tempo and penetration caught the hosts off guard, and sure enough, having caused a touch of panic in the backline, a scrambling Armando Izzo brought down Lautaro Martinez.
Romelu Lukaku rolled the ball home and Inter were on their way. The pass may not have been killer, but it’s that prodding and probing which causes teams to crack under pressure.
However, that march came grinding to a halt with 20 minutes to play when poor marking from a corner allowed Antonio Sanabria to tuck away the hosts’ equaliser. Now what?
Conte delved back into his war chest and pulled out Alexis Sanchez, deploying the Chilean winger as a trequartista, operating just behind the strikers. Once again, this proved to be a masterstroke from the Italian coach.
Sanchez did what no other player had been able to do all match – deliver an unstoppable cross onto the head of a teammate. His whipped ball in from the inside right channel was an absolute peach, and Martinez’s eyes lit up at such a pass.
The Argentine still had plenty to do and, while stretching to reach the ball, he managed to plant a stunning header back across goal which Salvatore Sirigu could not keep out. It was a monumental moment in their season and one which temporarily sent Inter nine points clear of rivals Milan at the Serie A summit.
Of course, it’s easy to praise Conte for making these changes, but he does boast the deepest and most talented squad in the league. The supporting cast still have to play their roles though, and they did so superbly.
For many, Eriksen has to be a constant starter in this team. He makes the midfield tick and so much more creative, even if that does mean sacrificing possession every now and again. Sanchez faces the impossible task of shifting Martinez or Lukaku from the front two, but his flexibility and versatility is now his greatest weapon for this team.
There’s still plenty of the season to go, but every Inter star is giving his all to end this decade-long drought.