Bologna 0-0 Inter: Benitez starts with bore draw

August 31, 2010

The starting line-ups

A low-key game with few goalscoring opportunities – the result was celebrated by managerless Bologna like a win.

The home side included new signings Andrea Esposito, Matteo Rubin, Gyorgy Garics and Albin Ekdal in a 4-1-4-1 system that saw Belgian midfielder Gaby Mudingayi sitting very deep in front of his defence, with Marco di Vaio isolated upfront.

Rafael Benitez used the 4-2-3-1 formation that Inter played towards the end of last season, and the system Benitez favoured at Liverpool. Maicon was unavailable so Javier Zanetti started at right-back. The only surprise was McDonald Mariga starting in the centre of midfield, with more license to get forward than Esteban Cambiasso. Samuel Eto’o continued on the wing.

Inter had 67% of possession in the game, and dominated throughout. In the first half they found it difficult to create any clear goalscoring chances, though, with their wide players struggling to become involved. Their build-up play was slow and laboured, and they seemed to lack a creative spark.

Bologna’s defenders were tracking Inter’s wide players closely, meaning that when Eto’o and Goran Pandev came inside, space opened up on the wings for Inter’s full-backs to exploit. But Cristian Chivu and Javier Zanetti seemed reluctant to get forward and hit the byline – whether this is the Benitez influence, or if Inter were simply missing Maicon, it’s difficult to say.

Reliance on Sneijder

Eto’o, Pandev and Diego Milito all had poor games, and Inter’s main goal threat came from Wesley Sneijder. There seemed to be a plan to get him running at goal past Milito – the striker would come deep and attract a defender up the pitch, and Sneijder would spin off the back of Mudingayi and sprint into space. Bologna made good use of their spare man at the back, however, and these moves came to nothing.

Sneijder was more dangerous with his long-range shooting – in all he had seven attempts at goal in the game. It’s interesting that Inter relied on Sneijder so much for shooting – he may have scored five goals at the World Cup (some of which were rather fortunate) but he was far from prolific for Inter last season (despite being brilliant as a whole), only scoring four goals in Serie A all season, three of which were free-kicks.

Bologna created a couple of decent chances in the first half, but overall it was difficult to see them scoring – Marco di Vaio is a fine player but not built for a lone striker role up against Lucio and Walter Samuel, and Bologna didn’t help his cause much by hitting too many long balls for him to contest in the air. His main support came from Henry Giminez, who wasted a presentable opportunity when he lofted a shot over the crossbar with Julio Cesar in a poor position.

The second half continued in much the same pattern as the first, although Inter were more dangerous when they had the ball. There was more movement from the flanks – Pandev, anonymous in the first half, came off the touchline and dragged the full-back across the pitch, although he did little on the ball. Milito was also showing good movement but produced similarly little when played in.

Bologna defensive shift

The main tactical point about Bologna was how they shifted from a four- to a five-man defence when they came under sustained pressure, and when Samuel Eto’o drifted inside into a striking position. Bologna wanted to retain their spare man in defence, so rather than Esposito passing Eto’o across to Daniele Portanova, he instead tracked him all the way into the centre, leaving Garics to drop in at right-back, creating a five-man defence and retaining the spare man in the centre, 3 v 2.

Eto'o started from the left, but often ended up in the centre of the pitch. This meant the right, back, Esposito (in green) moved into the centre of the pitch, close to the rest of his back four (in yellow). In turn the right-sided midfielder, Garics (in blue) dropped in at right-back, rather than being in his natural position (on the orange cross) alongside the other players in Bologna's line of four. The holding player, Mudingayi, is in pink.

Pandev was replaced by young Brazilian Philippe Coutinho. He looked nervous but still created a good opportunity for Eto’o, who had sprinted to the near post but couldn’t beat Emiliano Viviano. Despite Bologna defending well, their young goalkeeper Viviano (part-owned by Inter) was their best player by some distance.


A disappointing performance from Inter, although the result is far from a disaster – Inter have drawn their opening-day fixture for the past three seasons and still gone on to win the title, so there’s no need for Nerazzurri fans to panic.

Bologna’s organisation was superb considering they were without a manager, and stand-in coach Paolo Magnani didn’t seem to have much authority with substitutions – one of his planned changes was overruled by captain Marco di Vaio. Still, someone came up with a decent plan to beat Inter, with Esposito and Garics’ roles. Even when one side has no coach, Serie A still manages to throw up interest in terms of tactics.

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