Parma vs. Inter Milan: 6 Things We Learned
Parma losing to Inter isn't something that you'd traditionally count as an upset, but the Crociati have only lost at home twice all season, and with Inter's sometimes rocky form, it was a game that the home side might have seen themselves winning before kick-off.
As it turned out, the Nerazzurri were too strong for their hosts, possibly buoyed by their dominant performance in their 0-4 win away to Sampdoria in the previous round.
Parma had their chances, but Inter made them count and in the end were deserved 0-2 winners.
Samir Handanovic Is Inter's Most Important Player
Some people have mooted the possibility of Samir Handanovic leaving the San Siro at the end of the season, but most Inter fans will be hoping that the Slovenian stays firmly put between the posts for the Nerazzurri because, for the past couple of seasons, he's been their outstanding performer.
When he got to Antonio Cassano's spot-kick in the bottom-left corner to deny the home side the lead, it was incredibly his 23rd career penalty save. But he's good for more than just stopping shots. Since moving to Milan, he's become one of Serie A's most dependable keepers. Inter can expect interest in him over the summer. They should send the suitors packing.
Hernanes Continues to Improve
Hernanes looks better in an Inter shirt every time he plays. Losing the Brazilian was a critical blow to Lazio, and he's beginning to show that he can be just as important for the Nerazzurri.
The 28-year-old was tenacious as ever, hit the woodwork and supplied the cross for the goal from Rolando that opened the scoring. It was a man of the match performance, albeit one that was matched by the ever excellent Esteban Cambiasso, and if Walter Mazzarri can get him to perform like this every week, Hernanes should be the main man, pulling the strings in the Inter midfield for seasons to come.
Alessandro Lucarelli Deserves More Praise
Alessandro Lucarelli should be more highly rated. At 36, he's not going to be called up to the Italy national side or earn a big-money move to one of the league's top clubs, but the Parma captain has been outstanding for the club and deserves plenty of attention.
As always, Lucarelli led by example against Inter, worked tirelessly and did his best to contain Mauro Icardi—a player good enough to give any defender a difficult time. He was unfortunate to see his centre-back partner Gabriel Paletta sent off and to see his header from Antonio Cassano's cross hit the bar.
Two Great Defenders Isn't Enough to Make a Great Side
Lucarelli and Paletta have been among the best players in the league this season, but elsewhere, Parma will need to reinforce if they're to improve next season and be competitive in the Europa League.
Paletta's red card only served to bring that fact into sharp focus. Marco Parolo is another fine player, but with doubts remaining over the future of Antonio Cassano—who has been excellent for Parma, but who missed a penalty that could have changed the course of the game—they could be left completely bereft of real talent farther up the pitch.
Donadoni's done brilliantly with limited resources this season—if he stays in Emilia-Romagna next year, he needs investment.
Mauro Icardi Is Still Too Raw to Depend on
Mauro Icardi can be brilliant, but his off-field antics with the ex-wife of his former friend and teammate Maxi Lopez show that he's still more than a little immature and must settle down if he's to deliver on his not inconsiderable talent.
The game against Parma was an off-day for the young Argentine, partly because of the excellent Alessandro Lucarelli, but also because he just didn't seem up for it. Being replaced by a player like Ruben Botta says plenty about the performance, and it's one that Icardi will want to put behind him.
Parma Can't Afford to Slip Up Again
Having only lost at home twice all season—to Roma and Juventus—Parma will have come into this round relatively confident. Even in their current state of flux, a game with Inter is never a guaranteed three points, but the failure by the home side to even secure a draw means that they're now level on points with Milan.
The fact that Fiorentina and Napoli will contest the Coppa Italia final means that there's an extra place in the Europa League up for grabs. It would be a great shame if they were to slip out of the European positions after what's been an impressive season for Roberto Donadoni and the Crociati.
Parma still have to play Cagliari, Sampdoria, Torino and Livorno—four very winnable games. Milan, by contrast, have Roma, Inter and Atalanta before their final-day match with Sassuolo. The advantage remains with Donadoni's side, but they'll have to be careful.