It’s funny how whenever Inter are playing away from home, they make everything look much easier than if they were playing at San Siro. I’m not imagining this, stats speak for themselves (the goals scored/conceded ratio for Nerazzurri home games is 16/7 whereas the numbers increase to 24/9 for away games): Mourinho has been struggling to unleash his team’s goalscoring power in front of their fans this season. By contrast, Inter’s away games to Catania last week and to Lecce today have been a breeze. Go figure.
In any case, the players won’t be complaining. Thanks to the goals by Ibrahimovic, Figo, and Stankovic today, the Nerazzurri have increased their lead over rivals AC Milan to +8. Lecce meanwhile, have to face the dire reality of their relegation battle: they have not won at Stadio Via del Mare for over five months now. Speaking of poor home form huh?
Tactically, José was once again a bit surprising with his starting eleven: Marco Materazzi returned to active duty alongside Burdisso while 18 year-old phenom Davide Santon continued his moment of glory, occupying the left wing-back position and relegating Maxwell to the bench. Up front, Stankovic and Figo operated behind lone-striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic. On the other end fearlessness characterized manager Mario Beretta, who fielded his three-striker formation (Papa Waigo, Castillo, Tiribocchi) along with playmaker Edinho without any defensive qualms. In hindsight, not the greatest idea perhaps.
Indeed, Inter’s offensive propensities didn’t take long to come forward in this match. Zlatan first started provider (setting up Stankovic with a great cross the Serbian midfielder headed over) and then turned scorer, as the entire Giallorossi backline missed the offside trap in their box. Bad move. 1-0 Inter and Serie A goal nº14 for Ibrahimovic.
Conceding the goal didn’t sit well with the home team (an underestandable reaction considering all the offensive players they had on), who immediately proceeded to put pressure on their opponents. And their efforts were rewarded almost instantly, with Stendardo coming a hairbreadth away from the equalizer (smashing a close-range header towards the top corner) but finding the pouncing save of Julio Cesar to deny him joy. Inter controlled the ball but suffered, and thus the score didn’t change further till half-time. Before the break however there was a controversial non-penalty call for the visitors, as Ibrahimovic was upended inside the box by Stendardo. Referee Tagliavento booked Zlatan for diving instead.
The second half had little to tell in the Lecce story, and it wasn’t for lack of trying: 10 minutes and Beretta had made his three substitutions (Zanchetta, Papadopoulos and Cacia) which didn’t change one iota in his team’s end-zone productivity. Instead, it was Inter who came for the killer blow: Luis Figo first (on the receiving end of a perfect cross by Santon), Dejan Stankovic next (deflected header on Maicon’s right-wing free-kick). 2-0 and 3-0 Inter within minutes, and game over.
Game over? Not quite, as there was still time for the “sad story of the evening”. Mario Balotelli, who had been kept on the Inter sidelines for nearly a month and a half (punishment for his “lack of motivation” during training), made his entrance in the final 5 minutes. A short period of time during which the young U-21 striker managed to get booked by the referee, and thus earn a suspension for next week’s important Derby della Madonnina fixture. Now how do you think José will respond to that?
|GOALSCORERS: 12’ Ibrahimovic (I), 72’ Figo (I), 82’ Stankovic (I).
| LECCE (4-3-3): Benussi – Polenghi, Stendardo, Fabiano, A.Esposito – Caserta, Edinho (66’ Papadopoulos), Ariatti – Papa Waigo (58’ Zanchetta), Castillo, Tiribocchi (69’ Cacia). (bench: Rosati, Angelo, Giuliatto, Ardito). Coach: Beretta.
| INTER (4-3-2-1): J.Cesar – Maicon, Burdisso, Materazzi, Santon – J.Zanetti, Cambiasso, Muntari (81’ Maxwell) – Figo (72’ Chivu), Stankovic – Ibrahimovic (86’ Balotelli). (bench: Toldo, Cordoba, Mancini, Crespo). Coach: Mourinho.