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Mariga savours first title

ROME, May 6 – Macdonald Mariga got his taste of Italian Cup success after Inter Milan secured the first trophy in their historic treble quest as they beat AS Roma 1-0 at the Stadio Olimpico on Wednesday.

On a night when when his original courters Manchester City failed to qualify for the UEFA Champions League, Mariga’s move to the Nerazzurri continues to yield dividends for the Harambee Stars midfileder with the Champions League final to look forward to against Bayern Munich on May 22.

Diego Milito scored the only goal of the game while Roma substitute Francesco Totti was dismissed late on in an often bad-tempered and fractious affair.

It was Inter’s third cup triumph in the last six seasons – in the fifth final between the two teams in that same period – and their sixth in all.

Now Jose Mourinho’s men have two more league games to hold onto their Serie A lead — they head Roma by two points — and a Champions League final against Bayern Munich in Madrid on May 22 as they aim to become the first ever Italian team to win the treble.

"We’ve won the first of three trophies, now we expect to win the other two," enthused Milito.

"This victory will give us even more spirit for our next league game against Chievo."

The game got off to a dreadful start for the nerazzurri as Wesley Sniejder went down under a heavy challenge by on loan Inter defender Nicolas Burdisso and after hobbling around for a minute he had to be replaced.

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"It was a really tough game right from the first minute given we lost Sneijder straight away," said Mourinho.

"We played with aggression and intensity for 90 minutes. We scored and then we controlled the game.

"We didn’t get the second on the counter but then Roma lost their heads a little."

Mourinho decided to throw on forward Mario Balotelli, changing his formation in the process to a 4-3-3 from a 4-3-1-2.

Roma coach Claudio Ranieri paid tribute to the victors.

"We didn’t manage to play the way we know how and the way we played in our league meetings with them," he told Rai TV.

"They punished us for a moment of carelessness. The honour goes to the victors. As for the league, we won’t give up."

Despite the change Inter were very much in the ascendancy in the first half as Esteban Cambiasso dispossessed Mirko Vucinic in midfield and spread the ball wide to Samuel Eto’o, who slipped it inside for the charging Maicon but Julio Sergio blocked his near post shot.

Moments later Maicon crossed and Thiago Motta rose highest in box but couldn’t keep his header down.

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On 16 minutes Eto’o played in Milito but his clinical finish was disallowed for a marginal offside.

Eto’o turned provider again on 21 minutes, clipping the ball over the top for Balotelli whose control was exquisite before Burdisso slid in to block his left foot volley.

Roma finally came to life on 25 minutes with a rapid break as Marco Materazzi got caught out of position but Julio Cesar came out to get a vital touch on Rodrigo Taddei’s cross and deny Luca Toni an easy tap-in.

Roma came close again as Simone Perrotta played it wide to Taddei and then met his return cross with a bullet header that flew just off target.

Inter then lost Ivan Cordoba to injury, replaced by Walter Samuel but they took the lead on 39 minutes.

Thiago Motta played Milito in down the inside right channel and despite having threee defenders converging on him, the Argentine scampered into the box and buried a shot into the top left corner.

Roma should have drawn level on 53 minutes as Julio Cesar spilled a Totti free-kick from 30 yards but centre-back Juan somehow contrived to head over an open goal from six yards.

Minutes later Balotelli forced Julio Sergio into a sprawling save down to his right.

With a quarter of an hour left Roma had a free-kick from 25 yards but John Arne Riise blazed it high and wide.

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Julio Cesar then had to punch away a dipping Riise volley while Vucinic screwed a shot horribly wide after a lucky deflection played him in.

Then three minutes from time Totti lost his head and deliberately hoofed Balotelli, earning a straight red card which he didn’t contest.

At the final whistle a fan ran onto the pitch and tried to make for Cambiasso as some players pushed and shoved each other but the fan was quickly stopped.

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