Bologna 1-2 Inter Milan: Thinking about Manchester, a Super Mario & Super Julio Job (Serie A Matchday 25)

Inter Milan's Mario Balotelli celebrates after scoring against Bologna during their Italian Serie A soccer match at the Dall'Ara stadium in Bologna, February 21, 2009. (REUTERS)

No, that’s not the title of the latest Nintendo Wii game; it’s who Inter have to thank for their three points against Bologna Saturday.

Two protagonists: an expected one (it would be useless to point out that right this moment, Julio Cesar is the best goalkeeper on Earth) and a very unlikely one. And I say unlikely because given all the drama taking place in these last few months, it looked as if Mourinho was ready to keep him on mothballs until kingdom come. Instead, Mario Balotelli came, saw, and conquered, albeit with (a little) luck and a (minor) contribution by Antonioli (and by little and minor I mean big and major). Which should surely prompt the Serie A press now to hail José with yet another “miracle renewal”, just like the Portuguese manager did with Adriano. Pff… how predictable.

Regardless, these were another vital three points for the Nerazzurri (their lead is +12 with Juve playing later at 20:30 CET) who can now give their impending encounter with Manchester United their full attention. With a serene mind. At least until the Red Devils come through the door.

Serie A 2008-09 - Bologna vs. Inter Milan

Serie A 2008-09 - Day 25 - Bologna 1-2 Inter

The initial minutes of the match, probably as predicted by Sinisa Mihaijlovic (for those living under a rock the Bologna coach spent the past two years as assistant manager at Inter), offered a relentless stream of Nerazzurri attacks on Antonioli. In particular originating from Ibrahimovic, arming long-range efforts and distilling golden passes to Sulley Muntari, who had been inserted by Mourinho in the vice-Stankovic playmaking role. With mixed results: the Ghanaian midfielder’s penetrating runs were precious for Inter’s offensive efforts, but the same could not be said for his creativity in playmaking. With that said Muntari’s strike over the bar (after another good set-up by Zlatan) was really the only chance Inter could muster in the first half, all this taking place under the curious eyes of Roberto Mancini and Gianluca Pagliuca in the stands.

Bologna, despite having a foot firmly set onto the brake pedal resisted valiantly, even getting a chance of their own through Marco Di Vaio (neutralized by Julio Cesar’s intervention). The status-quo didn’t change much in the second half, despite Dejan Stankovic’s appearance (on for Muntari) onto the playing field. As is often the case, the deadlock would have to be broken by either an unpredictable event or a set piece, and odds wanted it was the latter. Following a Maicon corner-kick, Adriano redirected (or should I say head/shoulder-directed, a real trademark for the Brazilian striker in recent weeks) the cross towards Cambiasso, who slammed the ball into the roof of the net after a good touch. 1-0 Inter.

Inter Milan's Esteban Cambiasso (L) shoots and scores against Bologna during their Italian Serie A soccer match at the Dall'Ara stadium in Bologna February 21, 2009. (REUTERS)

With his team down by one goal, Mihajlovic decided it was time to beef up Bologna’s striking force: exit Valiani, enter Massimo Marazzina (whom you may remember from his Chievo golden days, but who still has a few things left to say in the Serie A). The striker immediately had a positive effect for the Rossoblu: more ball possession, stronger presence in front of Julio Cesar (who nonetheless kept a tight lock on his net with the usual inspiring performance). Unfortunately, the Inter keeper could do very little when a Bologna corner-kick swung the ball to Miguel Britos and the Uruguayan center-back was allowed to apply his header undisturbed. 1-1.

No sooner had Mourinho taken defensive covers (Patrick Vieira on for Adriano just before the equalizer) that the Portuguese manager restored his two-striker formation (Balotelli on for Maxwell). And no sooner had Bologna tied the game that Antonioli was picking up the ball from his net again: just one minute after his entrance Super Mario executed an inswinging free-kick from the left-wing, an effort which had so much spin on it it fooled everyone (including the keeper) and crept into the inside post at the other end. 2-1 Inter, and a very creative celebration for the Italo-Ghanaian striker.

The final “goal” of the game didn’t belong to Balotelli however: it was Julio Cesar’s. Because when a keeper continues (week in, week out) to do point-saving parries & deflections, his efforts are just as a valuable as scoring a goal at the other end. With just one minute left on the clock, the Brazilian keeper had to summon his best reflexes to parry a point-blank Di Vaio header (well set-up by Marazzina) and keep the victory on ice. Say all you want about Van der Sar’s clean-sheet record: my predictive guess for Tuesday’s man-of-the-match carries the same name of a Roman emperor.

From left, Inter Milan forward Mario Balotelli, Brazilian goalkeeper Julio Cesar and Argentine midfielder Esteban Cambiasso react at the end of a Serie A soccer match against Bologna at the Dall'Ara stadium in Bologna, Italy, Saturday, Feb. 21, 2009. Inter won 2-1. (AP Photo by LUCA BRUNO)


Bologna F.C. 1909
[Match Highlights]
F.C. Internazionale Milano
GOALSCORERS: 57’ Cambiasso (I), 79’ Britos (B), 82’ Balotelli (I).
BOLOGNA (4-5-1): Antonioli – Zenoni, Moras, Britos, Lanna – Valiani (66’ Marazzina), Mudingayi, Volpi, Mingazzini, Bombardini (78’ Adailton) – Di Vaio. (bench: Colombo, Belleri, Terzi, C.Amoroso, Mutarelli). Coach: Mihajlovic.
INTER (4-3-1-2) Julio Cesar – Maicon, Cordoba, Rivas, Santon – J.Zanetti, Cambiasso, Maxwell (81’ Balotelli) – Muntari (46’ Stankovic) – Ibrahimovic, Adriano (78’ Vieira). (bench: Toldo, Mançini, Figo, Cruz). Coach: Mourinho.


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Posted in Bologna, Inter, Serie A |

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