José keeps his promises. On the match eve, Mourinho had said “Juve will only stay on top until Saturday evening”. Said & done, Inter Milan won 2-0 courtesy of one Mr. Ibrahimovic: Zlatan was in stunning form tonight, and apparently he’s been also practicing his free-kicks (his second goal was clocked at 124 km/h!).
As for Palermo, Ballardini’s team held their own for about 45 minutes, i.e. for as long as stamina allowed them to keep pressing high. In the second half, an early goal and a mental collapse meant the end for the Rosanero.
Tactically, Palermo coach Davide Ballardini could count on the recovery of Fabrizio Miccoli, back from injury and paired up with Edison Cavani up front. Liverani was given the role to inspire passes, while Alberto Fontana occupied the goalkeeper position in place of an injured Marco Amelia. On the other end, Mourinho decided to get rid of his wingers today (Mancini on the bench, Quaresma in the stands) and fielded a 4-1-3-2 diamond formation, with Muntari (back in the starting eleven) playing playmaker behind strikers Ibrahimovic and Cruz.
Ironically, those bestowed with “playmaking” duties for both teams (Liverani and Muntari) weren’t feeling particularly inspired, and the bulk of play essentially went through the legs of Cambiasso and Fabio Simplicio. Not with great results however, as both Palermo and Inter struggled to create any real scoring (or even shooting) chance on net. Among the desert that were the first 45 minutes, Migliaccio kept Julio Cesar on his guard as he connected with a Miccoli free-kick from the right wing (minute 11), which was later followed by a Ibrahimovic penetration and shot in the 28th, which forced Fontana to a great goal-saving intervention from short-range. 0-0 at the half.
In the second period however, the music rapidly turned from “sweet lulluby” to “noisy fanfare“, and it was all thanks to one man: who else but Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Receiving an aerial redirect from Julio Cruz, Ibrahimovic armed a mighty diagonal effort from way outside the box that left Fontana no chance and put the Nerazzurri in the lead. Great goal, and 1-0 Inter.
Effectively, the match ended there for Palermo. Ballardini did try to progressively improve his team’s offensive abilities (first by inserting Budan, then Lanzafame with the score two goals down), but the only result this had was to further affect Palermo’s tactical equilibrium (for worse) all the while not producting very many scoring chances. Just two in fact, from the two substitutes combined, which certainly didn’t scare Julio Cesar a whole lot.
On the other end, Inter were having fun. Samuel, after many months on the touchline injured, was back to his solid self in central defense, and what to say about Ibrahimovic, constantly on the receiving end of passes from his teammates, passes which he immediately transformed into something magic. Fontana neutralized the damage in the 56th (short-range effort deflected wide of the post), but could do very little on the overpowering free-kick (124 km/h, did I mention that?) that Zlatan conned the ref into giving him (it wasn’t a foul) and then transformed himself with a cannonball shot. 2-0 Inter.
The final 30 minutes were essentially an all-Nerazzurri show, with Amantino Mancini making an appearance and showing some good things (dribbling and shooting), and Fontana being forced to work overtime in order to prevent further damage to Palermo (his save in the 91st on yet another Zlatan effort is worth a look). In a very satisfying night, the only snag for Mourinho was that Ivan Cordoba picked up another yellow card and will thus have to miss his match against Juventus next week. I’m certainly not complaining.
|GOALSCORERS: 46’, 62’ Ibrahimovic (I).
| PALERMO (4-3-1-2): Fontana – Cassani (79’ Ciaramitaro), Carrozzieri, Bovo, Balzaretti – Migliaccio, Liverani (64’Lanzafame), Bresciano (56’ Budan) – F.Simplicio – Miccoli, Cavani. (bench: Ujkani, Guana, Dellafiore, Kjaer). Coach: Ballardini.
| INTER (4-1-3-2): Julio Cesar – Maicon, Cordoba, Samuel, Maxwell – Cambiasso – Vieira (87’ Burdisso), Muntari (64’ Stankovic), J.Zanetti – Ibrahimovic, Cruz (77’ Mancini). (bench: Toldo, Materazzi, Obinna, Balotelli). Coach: Mourinho.