THESSALONIKI – Walter Mazzarri’s side rounded off their pre-season friendly fixtures ahead of next week’s Europa League play-off with a scoreless draw in Greece against PAOK. In the absence of any goals, it was the sweltering heat, two tidy defensive units, Osvaldo’s Nerazzurri bow, Inter’s ball possession and the hosts’ counter-attacking that formed the main points of note.
The temperatures certainly played their part at Toumba Stadium. It was hot and you could feel it. Both sides stayed compact leaving few holes for the other to exploit.
Some decent work by Kovacic earned Inter a free kick and their first chance on 10 minutes: Hernanes’ cross to the far post was cleared for a corner, which came to nothing.
The heat and the ‘friendly’ tag didn’t stop the odd meaty challenge from being swung though and Tzavelas picked up the first booking in the 16th minute for leaping with his arm out and catching Ranocchia.
The ref called a water break in the 27th minute and Mazzarri and Anastasiadis seized the opportunity to give out some instructions to their respective teams.
PAOK were keeping things very tight at the back and playing on the counter. In the 32nd minute a quick pass out of defence allowed Salpingidis to break forward and release a shot from outside the box, Handanovic dropping smartly to parry clear.
It wasn’t long before Inter hit back and Hernanes tested Glikos: the Brazilian’s left-footed strike was kept out by some nimble goalkeeping from the Greek shotstopper.
Meanwhile the fierce challenges kept flying in, first Salpingidis on D’Ambrosio and then Kovacic on Kitsiou (for which he received a booking).
The opening 45 minutes ended with a Kitsiou effort that failed to trouble Handanovic and Inter retaining the upper hand in possession (53%/47%).
The script was much the same in the second half. Hernanes and Kovacic linked up well shortly after the restart.but the Brazilian’s return pass was a tad too heavy.
The Nerazzurri kept PAOK at bay and upped the intensity somewhat, with M’Vila picking up a yellow for a foul on Salpingidis.
Osvaldo made his entrance in the 55th minute for his first appearance in black and blue. He had a determined air about him which he demonstrated ten minutes after coming on when he burst past several defenders and put in a cross.
Before the end of the match there was still time for Ranocchia to be cautioned and a string of substitutions to be made (Handanovic and Andreolli replacing Carrizo and Vidic, then Guarin and Obi on for Hernanes and Nagatomo, and finally Juan Jesus in place of Silvestre).
A couple of chances fell to both sides in the last few minutes but neither was able to break the deadlock.
So 0-0 was the final score in Inter’s last outing before they travel to Iceland for their Europa League bow. Things get serious in Reykjavik – at least the temperature won’t be a problem there.
PAOK 0-0 Inter
PAOK: Glykos; Kitsolu (Tzandaris 76), Skondras (Panagiotoudis 76), Katsikas, Rat (Spiropoulos 67); Golasa (Martens 50), Maduro (Savvidis 67), Tziolis (Kace 55), Tzabelas (Vitor 67), Salpingidis (Koulouris 63); Athanasiadis (Pereyra 34).
Coach: Angelos Anastasiadis.
Inter: Handanovic (Carrizo 67); Ranocchia, Vidic (Andreolli 67), Juan Jesus (Silvestre 85); D’Ambrosio (Osvaldo 55), Jonathan, M’Vila, Kovacic, Nagatomo (Obi 78); Hernanes (Guarin 78); Icardi.
Coach: Walter Mazzarri.
Referee: Aggelos Tsironis.
Booked: Tzabelas 15 (P), Kovacic 44 (I), M’Vila 48 (I), Ranocchia 67 (I).