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Mariga makes Inter debut

NAIROBI, Kenya, February 4- Macdonald Mariga made his first appearance for Inter Milan in Wednesday’s 1-0 Italian Cup win over Fiorentina.

The Harambee Stars midfielder who signed for the defending Serie A champions on Monday replaced Wesley Sneijder in the 90th minute.

Diego Milito gave the Italian giants a slight advantage in their Coppa Italia ahead of their second leg on April 14.

Milito scored in the 34th minute after he was set up by Mario Balotelli, although Inter had chances to make the victory more emphatic.

In a competition often shown little respect by teams, Inter coach Jose Mourinho had said before the game that he wanted to make the final and that was demonstrated by his selection which was as good as his first choice XI, with only goalkeeper Julio Cesar rested.

In a low key opening Inter created the only recognisable chances in the first half hour with shots from Maicon and Milito causing no problems for Sebastien Frey.

But in controversial circumstances the hosts went ahead as Balotelli got behind Cesare Natali with the Fiorentina defender stopping to protest but the teenage forward continued and laid the ball on a plate for Milito to fire Inter in front.

Fiorentina were angered by that and came out firing with Peru international winger Juan Vargas firing two efforts wide.

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But on the stroke of half-time Inter almost doubled their lead as Manuel Pasqual had to clear a Balotelli header off the line with Frey well beaten.

Veteran Inter goalkeeper Francesco Toldo had to be alert to deny Mario Santana early in the second period before Milito had the ball in the net a second time after Frey saved substitute Goran Pandev’s effort, but the Argentine’s strike was ruled out for offside.

Fiorentina substitute Stevan Jovetic had a great chance to restore parity from Pasqual’s cross but he headed straight at Toldo.

Balotelli’s eventful game, in which he also bled from a kick to the head in the first half, came to an end midway through the second period as Mourinho replaced him with Thiago Motta.

And the impetuous youngster will likely find himself in hot water on Thursday after failing to hide his displeasure and storming off straight to the changing rooms.

Inter came close again as Sneijder sent a free-kick from out wide just over the bar.

And they should have wrapped up the victory deep into injury time but Pandev fired wide on the break.
AS Roma host Udinese in the second semi-final first leg on Thursday.

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