Italian Serie A News, Results, Analysis and Features on Football Soccer

With almost all storylines nearly wrapped up in Serie A with less than two weeks to go in the season, the only thing left at this point are mere formalities.  Inter came into Round 37 with Champions League qualification neatly tucked away and only needed a point to secure a second place finish.  A good thing, too, as this past weekend saw a visit to the hostile Stadio San Paolo that Napoli call home.  For Napoli, they were on the verge of automatic Champions League qualification, only needing a point as well.

The circumstances surrounding the match had experts predicting a draw, as it would satisfy the needs of both teams.  The experts called it correctly and the match ended 1-1, but no one would have come to that conclusion after a cracking first 45 minutes.

Much like the flares in the stands, the first half was on fire.  With the intensity both sides showed, one would have thought there was a trophy on the line.  Inter manager Leonardo decided upon a 4-3-1-2, with Julio Cesar in goal, Maicon, Andrea Ranocchia, Marco Materazzi and Yuto Nagatomo forming the backline, Captain Javier Zanetti, Esteban Cambiasso, Houssine Kharja and Thiago Motta in the midfield, and Samuel Eto’o partnering Diego Milito up top to lead the line.

The Partenopei came out flying out of the blocks and made sure both Julio Cesar and the Nerazzurri defense were awake.  Luckily, for Inter, Edinson Cavani was serving his first game out of a three game suspension (that has since been reduced) which basically left danger man Ezequiel Lavezzi to try and break down Inter’s defense on his own.  The first five minutes were an endless barrage of Napoli attacks, as Lavezzi forced early saves from the Inter keeper.

Inter finally found their footing and went on the offensive without hesitation after soaking up the home sides’ relentless attack on their penalty area.  Right before the ten minute mark, Eto’o had a good look on goal but misfired his shot which went over the bar.  Not to be denied, the Cameroonian was determined to score his 35th goal of the season in all competitions.  In the 15th minute, his determination paid off with an absolute corker of a goal nearly 25 yards out.  Milito drew the Napoli defenders towards him, leaving an unmarked Eto’o with an open view of the net.  The Argentine striker found his strike partner outside of the box and Eto’o rifled the ball past the outstretched keeper Morgan De Sanctis.  It was a great goal by one of the greatest strikers around today.

Napoli fought back and once again put pressure on the Inter backline.  Lavezzi was able to run through the defense, but was denied on more than one occasion by a Cesar save or a perfectly timed deflection.  Marek Hamsik and Christian Maggio also started to get in on the action as the half wore on.  Maicon had a beautiful shot on goal that should have put Inter up 2-0, as he curled the ball from open play past De Sanctis, only to be denied by the post.

As the first 45 minutes came to a close, the equalizer was bound to come due to the lax defensive mind frame of the Nerazzurri.  It came in stoppage time of the first half, as two minutes were added by the officials.  After some lackadaisical defending by Inter, Maggio was somehow able to get the ball through to Zuniga amidst a sea of blue and black.  Zuniga found the back of the net and the score was 1-1 going into halftime.

As the second half started, it became apparent that both sides were content with a point apiece.  Both teams were in automatic Champions League spots and there was nothing left to truly be decided.  The San Paolo started to have a party atmosphere as the sold out crowd was already jumping and lighting flares in celebration.  Substitutions came early in the half, although it was a slight worry that Eto’o came out for Giampaolo Pazzini.  The goal scorer felt a slight twinge and asked to be substituted.  Falling in line with the positivity reigning around the stadium, Maggio kicked the ball out with no prompting for Inter to make the change.

Perhaps the biggest news for the Milanese club that night was the triumphant return of Walter Samuel.  After 190 days out because of the extreme knee ligament injury he suffered earlier in the season, he miraculously was taking the field and fulfilling the promise he made when he returned to Italy for rehab in January.  It was an emotional moment for all those in Nerazzurri.  Even though the match ended in a draw, this night was a win for everyone involved.

Even though the club has not had training for the last two days, Inter have been in the press a lot during this time period. The Premio San Siro Gentleman awards were on Monday and Zanetti, Pazzini, Nagatomo and Dejan Stankovic all walked away with the end of season honors for Inter.  The players also wished President Moratti a very happy birthday.

Speaking of President Moratti, he has done an interview with the television program “Le Iene” which will air tonight, Wednesday, May 18, and clarified Inter’s stance on some of the names already being linked to his club.  He used a scale of 1-10 (with 10 being absolute) in comparison to the likelihood of some players being in a Nerazzurri shirt next season: Pastore - 5; Sanchez – 4; Cavani – 1; but most importantly, Diego Milito – 10.  Regardless of any hearsay, the President has spoken and il Principe is staying.

Training resumes today and the next match is this Sunday.  The season comes to an end this weekend with Round 38, featuring Inter at home hosting Catania.

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