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Five goalless draws and an average of just 1.4 goals per game made for Serie A’s quietest round of games yet but there were still a handful of notable performances. Entertaining ties (particularly at the Stadio Olimpico) resulted in big wins for Lazio, Milan, Bologna and Parma, but Inter’s enduring woe is the real story of the week. The Nerazzurri fell to a 2-1 defeat at Catania to leave them just one point above the relegation zone: their worst start in over 60 years.

A nine-player shortage thanks to injuries and suspensions forced Claudio Ranieri to shuffle has pack and hand rare starts to Sulley Muntari and Luca Castellazzi. Things seemed to be working and Inter opened the scoring after 6 minutes with an unmarked Esteban Cambiasso volleyed home from Maicon’s cross. The Argentine put two past Catania last season and it looked like Inter were on-course to take their fifth win from six Stadio Massimino ties but the Elefanti fought back.

Stand-in ‘keeper Castellazzi created a half-chance for Catania by leaving a low cross to flash across the box but Maicon was on-hand to clear. Moments later Muntari conceded possession in the middle but Alejandro Gomez shot, aided by a divot, flew harmlessly over. The Elefanti continued to tease and prod but still trailed 1-0 at half time with much work to be done.

To their credit, Catania responded superbly after the restart and scored with their first move of the second half. Gonzalo Bergessio surged down the flank and slipped the ball to Sergio Almiron whose strike from outside the box was picture perfect. It was a glorious finish that left Inter shell-shocked, but the Rossazzurri had matched their opponents in an open game and fully deserved their equaliser.

Catania added a second four minutes later and the turnaround was complete. Castellazzi caught Bergessio with a poorly timed challenge inside the box and the forward went to ground. Francesco Lodi smashed the resulting penalty straight down the middle, and the Elefanti should’ve added a third in the 82nd minute but Andrea Catellani fluffed his lines after springing the counter-attack.

It was an open fixture that either team could’ve won on another day but Catania created better goalscoring opportunities with equal possession. The Elefanti were well worth the three points and the win propels them to 8th in Serie A after a solid start to the season.

The Russazzurri finished in a secure 13th last season and part of that was down to their excellent home form. Only Inter, Juve, Lazio and Milan came to the Massimino and won in 2010-11 and their strong home performances will be just as important this term if they are to improve on last season’s record points haul. Before Saturday they’d already beaten Cesena and drawn with Siena and Juventus on home turf, but stuffing Inter was undoubtedly their most impressive performance thus far.

It’s true that Inter are struggling at the moment but the result owed just as much to Catania’s endeavour as it did the Nerazzurri’s mediocrity. The Elefanti’s counter-attacks continually unsettled Inter’s increasingly wobbly defence and Inter’s deep-lying banks of four had no answer for their hosts’ aggression. Inter rarely looked like scoring a second even during injury time, with journeyman Nicola Legrottaglie particularly effective at shutting Nerazzurri attacks down.

Catania’s real star performers were in the middle of the park. Ex-Juve man Almiron was outstanding and continually brought the ball through Inter’s flaccid midfielders to support Bergessio and Gomez up-front. A very well taken goal capped-off his best Rossazzurri game yet, while fellow goalscorer Lodi continued his good early-season form with another great performance. Catania’s midfield harried Stankovic and Cambiasso for 90 minutes, completely shutting them out of the game and preventing Inter from ever dominating.

Much was made of Inter’s missing players before the game, but it’s worth mentioning that Catania were missing five players of their own, including Pablo Ledesma and summer signing David Suazo. The Elefanti aren’t exactly flushed with top players but it speaks volumes of their depth that they were able to defeat Inter with five players missing and the talismanic Maxi Lopez relegated to the bench.

Matas Silvestre, last year’s standout performer, has moved on to pastures new at Palermo but this new-look Catania side already looks gelled and primed for action. Legrottaglie is a solid replacement for the Argentine while Suazo and fellow newcomer Davide Lanzafame provide options up front. They neither significantly strengthened or weakened in the summer despite the losses of Silvestre and Ezequiel Schelotto, and that puts them in good stead to put a decent run together while other teams struggle for cohesion.

Rossazzurri fans will also be encouraged by the start Vincenzo Montella has made as manager. L’Aeroplanino helped stabilise Roma last season when the wheels came off Ranieri’s reign, and he’s only been beaten once so far as Catania boss (away to Genoa). His long-term management potential is completely unknown, but he’s done a sound job so far and his attacking philosophies clearly suit Catania’s players.

One of Montella’s biggest challenges will be turning Catania’s away form around. Their home results are so good that they rarely have to worry about what happens on the road, but last season’s only away win came at relegated Brescia. The problem still exists: he Elefanti have yet to win on their travels this year and they must do better on their travels if they are to push towards a top half finish.

Catania almost certainly won’t push for European places but they shouldn’t be bothered by relegation either. Montella’s side are very sturdy, and should have more than enough in their locker to overcome Serie A’s lesser teams. Beating Inter and drawing with Juve proves they can expose the big guns on occasion, and if they can capitalise on the promise of these early results they could have a big advantage over their midtable rivals. Inter won’t always be this poor, of course, but that doesn’t mean the Elefanti shouldn’t be encouraged.

The main thing is the huge disparity between home and away form. Catania simply cannot progress without a turnaround, and Montella is no-doubt aware of this. If they can improve their fortunes on the road then look for the Elefanti to make a real challenge for the top half. If they can’t, expect nothing better than 11th.

Andrew Murray

Scottish football writer with a thirst for knowledge and a passion for all things calcio. Visit for more from Andrew.

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