After being comprehensively beaten 3-1 by Juventus last week, Walter Mazzarri made four changes to his Inter side with Hugo Campagnaro, Saphir Taïder, Mateo Kovačić and the injured Ricky Álvarez making way for Walter Samuel, the returning Fredy Guarín, the debut of Hernanes and Diego Milito. Alberto Malesani made three changes to the Sassuolo side that lost at home to Hellas Verona, with Paolo Bianco, Lorenz Ariaudo, and Alessandro Longhi playing in the places of Thomas Manfredini, Reto Ziegler and the suspended Pedro Mendes.
Inter were on top from the start and the first real chance came in the 16th minute as Fredy Guarín, restored to the side following his transfer controversy, forced a save from Gianluca Pegolo with a long-range effort.
Hernanes made his first appearance for the Nerazzurri following his transfer from Lazio on deadline day and he was gifted an opportunity when Paolo Cannavaro botched a clearing header and the ball landed at the Brazilian's feet. He took a touch and lashed a curling effort at Pegolo's goal but it whistled inches wide.
Sassuolo weren't afforded much of the ball and the few opportunities they created came from set pieces, Lorenz Ariaudo heading over from a Domenico Berardi free kick, and Berardi himself forcing an acrobatic save from Samir Handanovič with a free kick from all of 30 yards.
In the final five minutes of the first half, Inter appeared to turn up the heat as they created a number of opportunities in quick succession. After a spell of Sassuolo possession, Rodrigo Palacio was able to break up the pitch and easily outpace Paolo Bianco to make it to the bye-line. His cutback reached an unmarked Diego Milito but his shot was blocked by a desperate slide from Ariaudo and Pegolo was able to easily gather.
A minute later and Jonathan made it to the bye-line on the right hand side, his cross found Hernanes on the 18-yard line and his header from this distance had remarkable power, forcing Pegolo to save.
Pegolo was certainly earning his money, as a minute after Hernanes tested him, he was forced to make another save, this time scrambling out to deny Diego Milito after he was found in acres of space by a Palacio cross from the right hand side.
Inter definitely went in at half time on top and they managed to transfer the energy they played with in the closing minutes of the first half to the opening minutes of the second, taking a lead they deserved two minutes after the break as Walter Samuel, restored to the side in place of Hugo Campagnaro, rose to fire a bullet header past Pegolo from a Hernanes corner kick.
Sassuolo were largely ineffectual with Domenico Berardi their most lively player however clear chances in the second half were difficult to come by as Inter looked to close out the match.
Inter came close through a well-struck Hernanes volley and had a flurry of opportunities late on but Pegolo stood up to them all and the Nerazzurri were forced to settle for a one goal victory to seal their first three points of 2014.
Inter: Handanovič; Rolando, Samuel (Campagnaro 80), Juan Jesus; Jonathan, Kuzmanović (Taïder 84), Guarín, Nagatomo; Hernanes; Milito (Botta 66), Palacio
Goals: Samuel (47')
Sassuolo: Pegolo; Bianco (Missiroli 74), Cannavaro, Ariaudo; Rosi, Brighi, Biondini (Chibsah 23), Longhi; Marrone; Berardi, Floccari (Floro Flores 80)