VERONA - This isn’t the first time it’s happened. Think back to Alvaro Recoba against Brescia, Christian Vieri against Verona, Giampaolo Pazzini against Palermo. Players making their debut for the Nerazzurri and not just scoring one goal. But two. And taking all three points home with them in the process.
This is just how Joaquin 'El Tucu' Correa’s story with Inter has started. In the most incredible way possible. He came on for his debut in the 74th minute, scored his first in the 83rd, then put a cherry on the cake by scoring his second in the 94th. It was a twenty minute period that turned the game around, having needed to come back from one goal down after Ivan Ilic opened the scoring for the hosts in the first half. Lautaro Martinez equalised for Inter straight after half-time, and then it was Two-cu time. It’s impressive for a player who only signed for Inter on Thursday to have already become the star of the show.
But it wasn’t just Correa that won the game. Arturo Vidal was instrumental in creating the second goal after coming off the bench, and then Matteo Darmian’s cross to find Correa in the box was sensational. It was a whole team performance from a side that has already secured six points, scored seven goals and conceded only one as we head into the international break.
The starting eleven for Inter’s second game of the season was the same as it was last week at the San Siro, apart from the inclusion of Martinez in place of Stefano Sensi who joined Edin Dzeko up front. Correa started on the bench, having only arrived at the club 24 hours previously. Verona, who on the opening weekend lost to Sassuolo, lined up in a 3-4-2-1 formation with the young Matteo Cancellieri featuring in attack.
Inter knew that Verona are a team that likes to press and play at a high tempo, so the Nerazzurri started the match on the front foot. The first quarter of an hour showed the talent Simone Inzaghi's side has to offer. Ivan Perisic was lively on the left, there were flashes of pace up front, and they had a lot of possession in the opposition half. Lautaro's first chance of the game came in the 12th minute, but Montipò saved well at his near post to deny him.
This bright start quickly came to an end, however, when in the 15th minute Samir Handanovic played a loose pass which Ilic took advantage of and delicately chipped over the Nerazzurri's goalkeeper with his left foot to open the scoring.
Despite Verona taking the lead, the Nerazzurri were slow to launch their comeback. Inter couldn't find a way around Eusebio Di Francesco's side's pressing, and the only time they did manage to break through was a counter attack which ended with Niccolo Barella heading wide. Verona only came close to doubling their advantage in the final stages of the first half, when Mattia Zaccagni picked up another loose ball, but Cancellieri's finish was wild and his shot sailed over the bar.
The sides were unchanged going into the second half, and Inter started with the same intent as they had the first. And this time they got their result. It was ‘El Toro’ Martinez who took the game by the horns and inspired Inzaghi’s Nerazzurri. The equaliser came immediately after half time with a routine that troubled Verona for the whole second half. A long throw from Perisic, flicked on by Dzeko towards Lautaro, who headed it past Lorenzo Montipò from close range. Eight minutes later the same routine almost ended in Martinez’s second but this time he shot wide.
Verona trembled, but did not collapse. Inter were looking more dangerous but they weren’t quite in full flow just yet. Lautaro thought he’d won his side a penalty for a foul by Martin Hongla, but Gianluca Manganiello shook his head. And VAR seemed to agree. Inter's best chance came in the 67th minute when Alessandro Bastoni's left-footed strike from outside the box was tipped round the post by the Hellas goalkeeper.
Inzaghi's changes, however, gave Inter renewed energy. Vidal stepped up the pace in midfield and he was instrumental in the move that gave the Nerazzurri the lead. He sent the ball down the line to Darmian who did incredibly well to not only keep the ball in, but to dig a cross out. And a good one at that. His ball arced towards the centre of the area, and there, ready and waiting was... Tucu Correa!
The Argentine striker had only been on the pitch for nine minutes, and he made it a debut to remember by rising high and sending a beautiful header into the net to give Inter the lead. It was an exceptional goal, and it was also his first headed goal since he’s been playing in Italy. You have to go back to his time with Sevilla to find his last one.
That goal seemed to crush any hopes Verona had of winning the game, and in truth they had become rather static in the second half. As they pushed to find a last-gasp equaliser and Inter defended resolutely, it was time for Tucu again. In the 94th minute, the dying embers of the game, he controlled a ball perfectly on the edge of the box and sent his finish arrowing into the bottom corner. That made it 3-1 and that was it, game over.
Tucu was embraced by the whole team including coach Inzaghi as he celebrated what can only be described as a dream debut.
HELLAS VERONA 1-3 INTER (HT 1-0)
HELLAS VERONA (3-4-2-1): 96 Montipò; 23 Magnani (27 Dawidowicz 75'), 21 Gunter, 17 Ceccherini (16 Casale 53'); 5 Faraoni (31 Sutalo 75'), 78 Hongla (61 Tameze 75'), 14 Ilic, 8 Lazovic; 7 Barak, 10 Zaccagni; 18 Cancellieri (11 Lasagna 62').
Subs not used: 1 Pandur, 22 Berardi, 9 Kalinic, 24 Bessa, 30 Frabotta, 32 Ragusa, 99 Simeone.
Coach: Eusebio Di Francesco.
INTER (3-5-2): 1 Handanovic; 37 Skriniar, 6 de Vrij, 95 Bastoni; 36 Darmian, 23 Barella, 77 Brozovic (22 Vidal 66'), 20 Calhanoglu (8 Vecino 87'), 14 Perisic (32 Dimarco 66'); 9 Dzeko (12 Sensi 87'), 10 Lautaro (19 Correa 74’).
Coach: Simone Inzaghi.
Added time: 1' - 4'.
Assistants: Alassio, Mondin.
Fourth official: Giua.
VAR assistant: Rapuano.