Inter Milan take one step closer to the title. With 5 games left in the Serie A, the lead on Roma is still +4 and today’s convincing win vs. Fiorentina should have given the Nerazzurri a much-needed morale booster, to keep their momentum going till the end. That’s what every Inter fan will be hoping for at any rate, but given the not-so-brilliant displays of Mancini’s team recently, I’d say anything’s still possible. As for Fiorentina, well… they were bold and beautiful vs. PSV on Thursday, but today showed every limitation (physical in particular) and reason why they still can’t quite compete with the top trio: Inter were just too strong…
Tactically, with Ibrahimovic unavailable Inter manager Roberto Mancini played once again the Mario Balotelli card, partnering up the young Italo-Ghanaian with Julio Cruz in the Nerazzurri attack. Supporting the Inter attacking duo, a very thick midfield composed essentially by the Vieira-Cambiasso-J.Zanetti backbone and the Stankovic playmaking. On the other end, Cesare Prandelli essentially reconfirmed the starting eleven from mideek’s UEFA Cup action, with the exception of Zdravko Kuzmanovic replacing suspended Marco Donadel.
At the start of the match, Fiorentina played their usual “attack-without-inhibition” part, trying to set the pace of the game with their offensive attacking trio (supported by always reliable Santana, Pazzini, and Mutu). Within minutes however, their hosts began taking the reins of the match and assert their domination, and it didn’t take very long for Inter to get their first scoring chances. An incredible series of 4 consecutive corner-kicks notably, gave Patrick Vieira the chance to prove, once and for all, that he’s back to his usual levels of brilliance. On the smashing header of Les Bleus‘ midfielder however, his French colleague Sebastien Frey showed on his part why he’s considered one of the top keepers of Serie A.
The close shave served as a sort of “wake up call” for Fiorentina, because La Viola came back into action in the ensuing minutes and produced some good plays of their own. The culmination of which was the 22nd minute chance by Adrian Mutu, when the Romanian striker (set up by Pazzini) had the chance to dribble Julio Cesar and tap into the empty net, but his last touch was too long and allowed the Inter keeper to close down the danger into corner. That however, was essentially the only noteworthy chance by Fiorentina before the break, as in the remaining 20 minutes Inter came back into the Viola box with fury. In fact, the only reason Fiorentina could close the first half without conceding any goals was because of their keeper, absolutely stunning on the shots by Julio Cruz (twice) and Javier Zanetti.
In the second period the storyline didn’t change much, and followed essentially the same script from the previous 20-25 minutes: powerful Inter attacks breaking off onto Sebastien “The Wall” Frey, and Fiorentina virtually uncapable of coming out of their half to counter-balance. And alas for Prandelli, one of these attacks proved to be the “one too many” for the French keeper: through on the right wing, Patrick Vieira forcefully challenged his marker, won the rebound and sent in a low cross for Esteban Cambiasso. The short-range assist was an unmissable invitation for the Argentine, which put his team in the lead with an easy finish. 1-0 Inter.
Applause from Nerazzurri stands rapidly turned into boos, at the announcement of Christian Vieri’s entrance (on for Pazzini). Evidently, the Inter to AC Milan transfer by Bobo hasn’t left many good memories among the San Siro faithful (the Nerazzurri part); in fact, the latter could have been even angrier a few minutes from the end, had Vieri’s short-range header resulted into a goal for Fiorentina (Julio Cesar was however reactive to parry away the danger). Before that happened though, Inter had had time to increase their lead and put their victory on ice: Julio Cruz and Mario Balotelli combined to send the youngster through, and there was little Frey could do this time to stop him. 2-0 Inter and game over. The 4-point lead over Roma is intact… for now.
|GOALSCORERS: 10’ Cambiasso (I), 62’ Balotelli (I)|
|INTER (4-3-1-2): Julio Cesar – Maicon, Burdisso, Materazzi (72′ Chivu), Maxwell – Vieira, Cambiasso, J.Zanetti – Stankovic (89’ Figo) – Balotelli (77’ Cesar), Cruz. (bench: Toldo, Crespo, Maniche, Suazo). Coach: R.Mancini.|
|FIORENTINA (4-3-3): Frey – Jorgensen, Ujfalusi, Gamberini, Gobbi – Kuzmanovic, Liverani (78’ Osvaldo ), Montolivo (71’ Pasqual) – Santana, Pazzini (56’ Vieri), Mutu. (bench: Avramov, Dainelli, Potenza, Da Costa). Coach: Prandelli.|