Cagliari 1-2 Inter: Clinical Diego Milito To The Rescue For Nerazzurri
The home side had led through Jeda’s first half penalty, and missed good chances to extend their lead, but a clinical quickfire double before the hour mark by Milito saved the day for a far from convincing Inter, who rode their luck on numerous occasions.
The Nerazzurri were keen to prove a point following their somewhat disappointing goalless home draw in Europe in midweek when they had to endure heavy pressure from Barcelona.
Jose Mourinho made four changes from that game, as Ivan Cordoba, Davide Santon, Dejan Stankovic and the returning Esteban Cambiasso started ahead of Walter Samuel, Christian Chivu, Sulley Muntari and Thiago Motta respectively. Amantino Mancini and Marco Materazzi remained sidelined.
Cagliari were hoping to kickstart their season, having taken just one point from their first three Serie A games. The Rossoblu were minus defenders Diego Lopez and Francesco Pisano, while Jeda and Alessandro Matri led the attack.
The home side started positively, with a crucial Lucio block preventing a one-on-one chance for Matri, but Inter had the first attempt of the game as Stankovic lashed just over from 30 yards.
Marti was released clean through on goal for Cagliari on 13 minutes, but he was halted for an incorrect offside flag.
A minute later, the home side were presented with a golden chance to take the lead as the referee pointed to the penalty spot for Maicon’s push on Matri in the six yard box. Jeda stepped up and sent Julio Cesar the wrong way.
Straight from the restart it could have been 2-0. Matri was located in acres of space in the left channel of the area, but half-volleyed into the side-netting.
Inter slowly started to work their way into the game, and Michele Canini did extremely well to prevent Samuel Eto’o heading home Diego Milito’s near-post cross. Federico Marchetti also had to be alert from Wesley Sneijder’s daisycutter.
The visitors went extremely close to getting back on level terms on 35 minutes as Eto’o whipped a fantastic free kick over the wall, but it skimmed the post by millimetres.
Inter were now camped inside the Cagliari half without really getting in behind the defence, and Milito scuffed an effort straight at Marchetti.
Inter made two changes at the break, as Thiago Motta and Mario Balotelli replaced Cambiasso and Santon.
But it was Cagliari who were agonizingly close to doubling their lead as Daniele Dessena let fly and beat Julio Cesar from 30 yards, only to see his shot smash off the post.
Andrea Cossu created a superb opportunity on the counter-attack for Canini, who headed wide with just the keeper to beat.
Cagliari were well on top, but a catastrophic defensive error gifted Inter the equaliser on 50 minutes. Milito was presented the ball by Conti, and slotted the ball past Marchetti with aplomb.
Minutes later Inter turned the game around completely, and again Milito was the goalscorer. The Argentine latched onto a long pass and delightfully flicked the ball over the onrushing Marchetti.
Mourinho was overjoyed with Milito and celebrated passionately on the bench, but moments later the Inter coach was sent off to the stands after complaining about a challenge on Balotelli.
Milito could have completed a hat-trick just past the hour mark, but shot too high from Eto’o’s pass. Down the other end, Dessena also got under his effort.
Substitute Thiago Motta limped off with a muscular injury, meaning the introduction of Wednesday’s man-of-the-match Chivu.
Cagliari, after the shock of Inter’s comeback, started to get on top again midway through the second half, and Maicon almost turned the ball into his own net under pressure from Matri. Dessena also scuffed wide from a promising situation.
Yet, on 72 minutes Balotelli should have made the game safe for Inter as he skied the ball high over the bar from just 12 yards out.
Balotelli could have lived to regret this miss, as five minutes later Cagliari missed a wonderful double-chance to equalise. First Julio Cesar parried substitute Nene’s curler, and then from the follow-up Dessena didn’t have the power to find the back of the net.
Julio Cesar beat away substitute Andrea Lazzari’s piledriver, while Cossu fizzed an effort wide as Cagliari laid siege.
On 87 minutes an equaliser seemed a formality as the ball dropped to Jeda six yards out, but the Brazilian somehow sliced wide when it seemed easier to score.
Inter hung on for a far from convincing victory, and in the process move up to third in the table, two points behind joint league leaders Juventus and Sampdoria.