Samuel Eto’o scored twice from the penalty spot whilst Diego Milito also scored two goals ending his goal drought. This sent Inter top of the table and looking strong before Saturday’s clash with Roma at the Stadio Olimpico.
The Nerazzurri went into the game against Bari full of confidence – they had just beaten Palermo and it was obvious that the team was finding form. Inter lined up with Júlio César in goal, Douglas Maicon, Lúcio, Walter Samuel and Cristian Chivu at the back with Dejan Stanković and Esteban Cambiasso as the holding midfielders. Wesley Sneijder was welcomed back after injury whilst Eto’o, Milito and Goran Pandev started up front. Inter, although nearly conceding after 20 seconds when Sergio Almirón hit the post, dominated this game. Diego Milito, who was so obviously troubled this week with his lack of goals, managed to get on the end of Eto’o’s cross to head home his first of the season on 28 minutes. Bari never recovered from this and in the second-half they gave away two needless spot kicks. Eto’o stepped up and on both occasions sent Jean-François Gillet the wrong way. Milito finished off the scoring on the 86th minute when he got on the end of a Stanković pass to smash home the fourth and final goal. A convincing win for Inter and a statement of intent also as they go top of Serie A.
Before the game there had been two main topics of conversation surrounding Inter – Milito’s frustration about his lack of goals and whether Eto’o had argued with Rafael Benítez in order to play closer to the middle of the front three. The Spaniard was quick to talk about both areas in his post-match press conference. On his No.9: “I am happy for him and for Eto’o. Everyone knows Eto’o would prefer to play as a centre-forward, but we talked it through during the summer in our American tour. Our idea is he can play on the right or the left, but a little closer to the box than last season.” Benítez had similarly positive words for his Argentine striker:“He was already working very well for the team, but the only difference this time from the other games is that the ball hit the back of the net, Diego is working for the team. He will score many goals” Milito showed his frustration against Palermo but will hopefully be able to go from strength to strength from here, this will be music to most Inter fans’ ears as with Milito and Eto’o firing on full cylinders another title cannot be very far away.
Benítez refused to be carried away seeing his team at the top of the table: “It’s not a breakaway run. The season is long and we are just at the start, but of course it is always nice to be on top, The system is not important, as what counts is the quality, intensity and mentality of the players. If we see the right mentality, as we did tonight, then the team is balanced, regardless of the result.” He seems at the moment to have the team playing well and talk of José Mourinho, although never far away, is slowly dissipating.
The attention now turns to Saturday and a potential banana skin against last year’s title contenders Roma at the Olimpico. Roma have got off to a poor start with an opening day goalless draw with Cesena was followed by a 5-1 thumping by Cagliari, a 2-2 draw with Bologna and a surprise 2-1 defeat to Brescia. Life may just get a lot harder when they welcome Inter this at the weekend. Nevertheless, Roma still have a very talented team and they will be looking to use this match as a turning point in their season. Benítez will be well aware of this and also conscious that a repeat of the 3-1 demolition of Roma that was seen in the Italian Super Cup would also show the rest of the division that Inter mean business. The game itself always throws up something special and will be the highlight of the weekend’s fixtures. With Milito and Eto’o now finding the net it is hard on current form not to see the Nerazzurri leave with all three points. All roads lead to Rome but for once, Roma do not want Inter to be on it.