Inter leaves it too late as Genovese giants hold out

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With their city rivals and Roma having drawn last night, Inter had the chance to extend their lead at the top of Serie A to six points. Perhaps it was the lack of immediate pressure for a performance that caused Inter to go through the motions for more than half of the game. By the time they finally stepped up the gas, the Nerazzurri found Gianpiero Gasperini’s side had developed a collective belief in themselves that may not have surfaced had Inter taken it to them from the first whistle.

Indeed it was the visitors who controlled proceedings for much of a first half that was pretty tame when it came to talking points. Domenico Criscito fluffed a half-chance after finding space early on but Rossoblu were content to keep possession and build up a sense of collective comfort. Considering the imposing position victory would give them, Inter looked uncharacteristically devoid of purpose. Their side looked attacking on paper, with Balotelli, Schneider, Pandev and ex-Genoa man Milito all starting. Maybe this was part of the problem. They looked like a side lacking balance, especially without the influence of Eseteban Cambiasso in their engine room. With their attacking players struggling to click, Inter were losing the ball with alarming frequency and then faced a shortage of personnel who could get it back. Jose Mourinho, still serving a touchline ban, was no doubt glad to go in at no score with the chance to instil some purpose into his charges.

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Whatever was said at half-time worked up to a point. Mourihno’s side no longer looked like a team thinking of the impending trip to his former club in the Champions League. They attacked with a numerical commitment even if the sense of direction was still somewhat lacking. Part of the credit for this goes to Gasperini and his team. Their organisation belied their away record of 6 points out of 36 and they managed to pin the Nerazzurri back for a few minutes midway through the second half. That Inter came to the conclusion a long-range stroke of brilliance was the only way through was a compliment to the way they set themselves up. Schneider (twice), Maicon and Balotelli all had hits from distance that either went wide or forced Marco Amelia into a routine save. The introduction of Samuel Eto for Goran Pandev at least gave Genoa something to worry about, but when Balotelli twice threw himself on the floor to try and deceive the referee into giving a penalty, it was an admission at least from the youngster that he had no answer to the Rossoblu’s wall in front of him. Balotelli would do well to remember the long memories of officials. One day a referee will refuse a stonewall penalty on the basis of reputation.

This was a great result for Genoa and Gasperini who can regard this sort of performance as a breakthrough moment. With them shutting out their former goal-machine Milito, the next worrying question will be whether or not their coach will be interested in a certain vacancy in Turin this summer. While Inter will not play as badly as their first half showing again this season, the Mourinho home run is now 131 and Nerazzurri remain four points clear at the summit. The special one will, however, demand a better performance at Catania’s next Friday.

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