Mauro Icardi, Ever Banega net hat tricks as Inter Milan thrash Atalanta
Inter managed five goals in 17 minutes to turn the second half of their Matchday 28 game with Atalanta into a cakewalk, thrashing their visitors 7-1.
Atalanta had managed an impressive 49 points since Matchday 6, second only to Juventus. Most of the early curtain pulling was done by Mauro Icardi, who bagged a hat-trick in only nine minutes after Atalanta had looked lively in the first quarter of an hour.
Ever Banega, the assistman for Maurito's third, forced the organisers to hand out two match balls by nabbing a trio himself, the first two being made by a rejuvenated Antonio Candreva.
Inter have developed the ability to wrest control of the initiative. It had already happened to Fiorentina and Lazio in league play, but nobody could have expected Atalanta to be so abruptly deleted from the script.
By half-time the visitors' ball carriers were reduced to a gibbering wreck by the relentless pressure and the combative Franck Kessie' was taken off on the hour mark alongside Alejandro Gomez.
Could anyone have imagined Inter running this much at the start of the season? Icardi was beyond lethal.
Nope, can't think of any. Gabigol not getting a few minutes irks, but it'd be nit-picking.
Manager rating out of 10
9 -- Stefano Pioli could win today after all, and he did so by mercilessly pummeling a fearless opponent. Giampiero Gasperini's wingbacks were exposed from the get-go, El Papu Gomez was muzzled and Franck Kessie' surrounded by pressing opponents. This side keeps hitting new highs, mere months after pessimism was the staple.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Samir Handanovic, 7 -- Made a superb save to deny Gomez, and was blameless on Freuler's goal.
DF Danilo D'Ambrosio, 7 -- Papu who? He also worked the relay very well with Candreva on the right.
DF Gary Medel, 7 -- Had a comfortable game, but also slipped in the lead-up to Atalanta's consolation effort. Made an inch-perfect pass early on for Icardi, however. The subsequent free kick allowed Inter to take the lead.
DF Miranda, 8 -- Didn't look intimidated by Andrea Petagna's size, and almost looked like he wanted to teach the presumptuous youngster a lesson by going walkabout with the ball himself.
DF Cristian Ansaldi, 7 -- Actually managed to nutmeg an opponent and help set up the 6-1 with a backheel. Very reactive defensively, too, and won his battle with both Leonardo Spinazzola and Jasmin Kurtic.
MF Roberto Gagliardini, 8 -- Scored against his former team and looked very aggressive, dispossessing Freuler for Inter's fourth. He touched only 48 balls, however. Is Marcelo Brozovic this team's only possession midfielder?
MF Geoffrey Kondogbia, 8 -- Obliterated Franck Kessie', making four key tackles and looking like he was glued to the Ivorian star. Has been fouled more than Icardi, Candreva, Brozovic and Ivan Perisic this season. Miscued a few passes too many, however.
MF Antonio Candreva, 8 -- Had two wonderful assists but arguably wasted two more by trying to go it alone early and miscuing a pass to Icardi on the hour mark. There was also an inch-perfect cross cruelly wasted by Perisic, however.
MF Ever Banega, 9 -- Inter have scored 12 goals in the last two games, with El Tanguito contributing to exactly half of them. Was playing him deeper the solution after all?
MF Ivan Perisic, 7 -- Penalized for his profligacy, but was otherwise very involved, running down the wing like an express train. Tends to dribble like Garrincha used to, slowing the play down to a halt before springing into action. The second penalty owes to his wonderful flick-on for Icardi.
FW Mauro Icardi, 9 -- Has it all: the poacher's finish, the cheeky Panenka and the bullet header. A shout out to those who wanted to sell this man for the €60 million or so Napoli were offering last summer.
MF Joao Mario, 6 -- Has to be worried about Banega now. It is hard to see these two being compatible in the same eleven, too.
FW Rodrigo Palacio, N/R -- Came on five minutes before Eder, yet somehow had one less touch than him.
FW Eder, N/R -- Didn't get the chance to participate.
Edoardo Dalmonte covers Inter Milan for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter: @EdoDalmonte.