ROME, February 8 – Inter Milan increased their lead at the top of Serie A to 10 points after they crushed Cagliari 3-0 at the San Siro while second placed AC Milan were held to a 0-0 draw at Bologna.
Ahead of the Milan derby two weeks ago the Serie A title race seemed to be alive and kicking with Milan knowing a victory would have left them three points behind and with a game in hand.
But they lost that and have drawn their next two leaving the champions starting to creep over the hill and out of sight.
Goals from Goran Pandev, Walter Samuel and Diego Milito earned Jose Mourinho’s men the three points that give them a seemingly unasailable lead.
There was an ominous feel to the game when Inter took the lead after just six minutes,
Captain Javier Zanetti made a typically purposeful burst down the right flank, breaking into the box and pulling the ball back for Samuel Eto’o, playing his first game since returning from African Nations Cup duty, but the Cameroon hitman’s poor shot hit two defenders before falling invitingly into Pandev’s path, the Macedonian slotting home at the near post.
On 20 minutes it seemed to be game, set and match as centre-back Samuel rose in the box to head home a Maicon corner for 2-0.
And yet Cagliari could, and possibly should, have gone into the break level.
Alessandro Matri had a goal wrongly disallowed on 34 minutes when, although he was marginally offside as the ball was played through to him, television replays showed that it was Inter full-back Davide Santon’s touch which sent him in on Julio Cesar.
And two minutes later it was Julio Cesar who stunningly kept Cagliari off the scoresheet as he made a reaction save from Brazilian countryman Nene’s acrobatic volley from close range.
Any hopes Cagliari had were wiped out two minutes after the restart following a brilliant goal from Inter that saw Pandev feed Eto’o on the edge of the Sardinians’ box, take the return pass and slip in Milito, who took a touch and then slid the ball low into the corner.
Milan laboured to a draw in Bologna with loan signing from Inter Mancini failing to impress on his debut.
Ronaldinho came closest to breaking the deadlock as he hit the bar with a sideways bicycle kick in the second half and in injury time captain Massimo Ambrosini also hit the bar with a header.
There was crowd trouble in Udine where four people were taken to hospital before kick-off, after which Napoli’s Cristian Maggio had an eventful game as Antonio Di Natale scored a hat-trick in Udinese’s 3-1 victory.
Maggio’s topsy-turvy afternoon began when he was booked for fouling Ghana’s Kwadwo Asamoah in the box and although Morgan De Sanctis saved Di Natale’s spot-kick, the Serie A top scorer volleyed home the rebound on seven minutes.
On 21 minutes Maggio equalised as he pounced on the rebound after Samir Handanovic blocked German Denis’s shot with his legs, nutmegging the Slovenian goalkeeper to equalise.
But at the end of the first half, Fabio Quagliarella headed Denis’s cross against the bar and Maggio dived in the box after collecting the follow up, promptly picking up his second booking.
Napoli fought spiritedly with 10 men and Michele Pazienza hit the post in the last minute but Di Natale broke Napoli hearts with two goals in injury time.