Inter 2-0 Fiorentina: Zlatan Doing His Thing(s) Again, Nerazzurri Keep Juve at -7 (Serie A Matchday 28)

Inter Milan forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic scores a goal during the Serie A soccer match between Inter Milan and Fiorentina at the San Siro stadium in Milan, Italy, Sunday, March 15, 2009. (AP Photo)

Hats off to Manchester but we are a great team. Moratti-Mourinho: full steam ahead“. So recited a banner at the Giuseppe Meazza stadium this week-end, a sign that Inter supporters seem to be quick at forgiving their heroes’ European misfortunes. It is thus fitting perhaps, that Sunday’s match vs. Fiorentina featured the last appearance of the Nerazzurri’s celebratory “centenary jersey” (the one with the Crusaders stripes), as if to symbolize “a cycle is over, let a new one begin”.

For Mourinho, that new cycle can only hope to begin with an Italian Scudetto and given his team’s performance vs. La Viola, things are looking okay. The change of scenery, from Old Trafford stadium to the dire reality of Serie A, seems to have been absorbed rather well by his players: Julio Cesar is still the ever-reliable rock between the posts, Cambiasso the midfield (slash defense) dynamo, Zlatan the goalscoring machine up front. With their win Sunday, the Nerazzurri are keeping Juventus at -7.

Note: I apologize for the lack of updates between Monday and Wednesday. I was having some internet connectivity issues. All sorted now.

Serie A 2008-09 - Inter vs. Fiorentina

Serie A 2008-09 - Day 28 - Inter 2-0 Fiorentina

Tactically, Prandelli had made adequate preparations for this one, certainly not shying away with offensive inhibitions: Mutu-Gilardino up front, a “T”-shaped midfield in support i.e. 1 defensive mid, Jorgensen, plus 3 OMs, Kuzmanovic, Montolivo, Felipe Melo. The latter in particular, was to serve both as a lookout man in Cambiasso’s zone and as disrupting presence in the most sensitive part of Inter’s diamond-shaped formation. On the other end, Mourinho replied with the “Usual Suspects” in addition to the confirmation that, at least based on the recent month, Mario Balotelli seems have overtaken Adriano in the Inter hierarchy: the Italian youngster paired up with Ibrahimovic in the Nerazzurri attack.

To give you an idea on how fast this match took off, just nine minutes had passed when Gilardino obtained a good through ball after a missed Chivu tackle, and set up Adrian Mutu for a point-blank range finish. Incredibly, the Romanian striker made a mess of the finish and allowed Julio Cesar to parry. Boy would he regret it, because not even 100 seconds later Zlatan Ibrahimovic was scoring on the other end, receiving a cross from Balotelli and exploiting Frey’s missed deflection. The Swede’s first deflection attempt was borderline “dangerous play”, but the goal stood. 1-0 Inter.

The hand of Inter Milan's Zlatan Ibrahimovic (2nd R) touches the ball as he jumps before scoring past Fiorentina during their Italian Serie A soccer match at the San Siro stadium in Milan March 15, 2009. (REUTERS)

With one goal up, Inter backed off the gas pedal and adjusted, Balotelli even coming back to support the defense when necessary (you know, à la Rooney). So much so that aside from a mid-range Stankovic effort (narrowly wide), Mourinho’s side was content on defending all the way until the half-time whistle, three men behind Ibrahimovic and controlling the situation. Gilardino, despite being a constant & unpredictable threat with his runs, never put Julio Cesar and his backline into serious action.

Speaking of backlines, Cambiasso celebrated his 200th game with the Nerazzurri by reverting (yet again) to a center-back role in the second half (for an injured Chivu). On came Figo, slightly offsetting the midfield balance previously guaranteed by the Argentine, and thus allowing Fiorentina to build on territorial superiority. If La Viola couldn’t score on the many chances obtained however, they had only themselves to blame.

Inter Milan's Davide Santon (R) fights for the ball with Fiorentina's Adrian Mutu during their Italian Serie A soccer match at the San Siro stadium in Milan March 15, 2009. (REUTERS)

First, a Montolivo rocket from long-range was narrowly held by Julio Cesar. Then, Mutu made Gilardino turn pale with anger when the Romanian fired his shot wide at the end of a 4 on 3 counter-attack (min. 62). By then however, it was obvious the relative freshness of Prandelli’s side (no European mid-week fatigue to deal with) was giving them an edge over Inter, Muntari constantly struggling to keep up with Montolivo and the counter-attacks launched by Figo lacking incisiveness. The Nerazzurri were holding their breath, relying on Julio Cesar and the occasional (but capital) last-ditch tackle by Samuel (especially on Gilardino).

These were the last shivers to run down the Brazilian keeper’s spine though, as Fiorentina soon gave Luis Figo and Davide Santon enough room for a couple of attempts of their own. The latter in particular, had been an indirect protagonist of the second half for a variety of match incidents, the most notable of which a non-red card for a reckless foul on Comotto, and causing (indirectly) Mourinho’s removal from the Inter bench (the Portuguese manager had violently protested to referee Orsato after a foul on Santon).

There was still time however for Inter to seal their success, and it came just as the crowd accompanied the manager’s dismissal with a roar. Deep into stoppage time, a thundering free-kick from Ibrahimovic (clocked at over 109 km/hr) slammed the top part of the crossbar and left Sebastien Frey no chance. 2-0 Inter. Game over. Inter right back on track (domestically at least).

Inter Milan forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic, center, celebrates with his teammates Sulley Muntari, right, and Serbian midfielder Dejan Stankovic after he scored during the Serie A soccer match between Inter Milan and Fiorentina at the San Siro stadium in Milan, Italy, Sunday, March 15, 2009. (AP Photo)


F.C. Internazionale Milano
[Match Highlights]
 ACF Fiorentina
GOALSCORERS: 11’, 94’ Ibrahimovic (I).
INTER (4-3-1-2): Julio Cesar – Maicon, Samuel, Chivu (46’ Figo), Santon – J.Zanetti, Cambiasso, Muntari – Stankovic (85’ Rivas); Ibrahimovic, Balotelli (83’ Mancini). (bench: Toldo, Maxwell, Crespo, Adriano). Coach: Mourinho.
FIORENTINA (4-1-3-2): Frey – Comotto, Gamberini, Kroldrup, Vargas – Jorgensen (81’ Donadel) – Kuzmanovic (75’ Jovetic), Felipe, Montolivo (84’ Bonazzoli) – Mutu, Gilardino. (bench: Storari, Pasqual, Zauri, Semioli). Coach: Prandelli.


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Posted in Fiorentina, Inter, Serie A |

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