Serie A – Inter edge Palermo in eight-goal thriller
Internazionale went four points clear in Serie A after coming out on top of an eight-goal thriller against Palermo at the San Siro.
The champions went 4-0 up by half-time before almost throwing victory away as the visitors made an inspired comeback, but Inter rallied and eventually won 5-3.
Second-placed Juventus had thrown down the gauntlet on Wednesday with a 5-1 thrashing of high-flying Sampdoria and Jose Mourinho’s Inter side rose to the challenge with a dominant home performance – in the first half at least.
“It became a bit complicated. We’ve got to work to avoid that happening,” Inter right-back Maicon said of Palermo’s fight back to 4-3.
Inter’s win puts them on 25 points from 10 matches ahead of Juve, with third-placed Sampdoria now five points behind the leaders who are chasing a fifth straight scudetto.
Inter boss Jose Mourinho admitted he was annoyed at his team’s second half performance.
“Obviously I was a bit angry and a bit worried because the game should have been over,” he said.
“That can happen if a team loses concentration, it was a great comeback by Palermo.
“Away to a big team at 4-0 you’d have thought they’d be trying to keep the score down but instead they went going for it.”
Palermo coach Walter Zenga was left rueing an uncharacteristic defensive performance.
“At the end of the first half we conceded three goals that shouldn’t have, that were unusual for us,” he said.
“But we did great to come back into the game, we showed great personality and desire.”
Balotelli, so often criticised by Mourinho for his immature attitude, demanded to take the spot kick and captain Javier Zanetti had to pull him away from designated taker Eto’o.
After a mild sulk, Balotelli intensified his bid for a goal and was rewarded when he headed in a corner after 34 minutes.
His second goal followed soon after when the uncompromising forward prodded in Esteban Cambiasso‘s header on the line – even though the ball would have gone in anyway.
The Italy U21 striker then cut the ball back for Cameroon striker Eto’o to ram home the fourth at the near post just before the break.
Balotelli had picked up a cold in the build-up to the game and although he wore a scarf in the first half, he asked to be substituted just seconds into the second period.
Inter, who also lost Eto’o to injury, seemed to lose focus thereafter and Palermo’s Fabrizio Miccoli quickly pulled a goal back after first dinking the ball over goalkeeper Julio Cesar.
Uruguayan Abel Hernandez then finished off a superb move just past the hour for the side coached by former Inter keeper Walter Zenga and the Sicilians suddenly believed they could pull off an incredible comeback when more Miccoli magic made it 4-3.
But Inter substitute Diego Milito sidefooted home from point-blank range to calm the crowd’s nerves and seal the points after Maicon’s superb cross cut the Palermo defence open.