Antonio Di Natale bagged a brace as 10-man Inter paid the price for wasting chances in a heavy 3-0 Stadio Friuli defeat.
The Friulani hoped the Christmas break had done enough to shake off the fatigue that followed them all season, though Mehdi Benatia and Emmanuel Badu were on African Cup of Nations duty with Giampiero Pinzi suspended. Andrea Ranocchia was banned for insulting officials, joining the injured Diego Milito, Gaby Mudingayi, Cristian Chivu, Dejan Stankovic, Joel Obi, Luca Castellazzi, Yuto Nagatomo, Philippe Coutinho and Ricky Alvarez.
Samir Handanovic was given a warm welcome back to his former stadium. Esteban Cambiasso was again used at centre-back for the visitors.
Rodrigo Palacio sparked a counter and the crucial sliding tackle stopped Fredy Guarin scoring, then from that corner Cambiasso volleyed off target. Zeljko Brkic was alert to smother at Palacio’s feet when he sprung the offside trap.
Palacio burst into the box from an Antonio Cassano through ball on 24 minutes and fell under a challenge from Maurizio Domizzi, but fell in a highly dramatic fashion and was only booked for simulation.
Udinese went incredibly close moments later, as a Di Natale missile of a free kick from 20 metres cracked against the crossbar. Handanovic was rooted to the spot as the sheer power made the frame of the goal visibly rattle.
Guarin’s free kick was charged down, but Cassano had wanted to take it and went to Coach Andrea Stramaccioni to complain.
Walter Gargano’s screamer from distance was fingertipped just past the upright, but Udinese’s chance went begging when Di Natale and Luis Muriel both went for the same ball and collided.
Inter incredibly failed to score on 54 minutes. Cassano went on a wonderful mazy run to pull back from the by-line, Palacio was crowded out so passed across to the totally unmarked Jonathan who somehow fired wide from six yards!
Guarin’s angled drive was smothered and Palacio got away with what was almost a very costly backpass. Brkic got down well with one strong hand to beat away a Palacio daisy-cutter.
Palacio wasted another great opportunity from Guarin’s disguised pass, as he slipped and ballooned over when clear on goal.
Inter were made to pay for those mistakes, as moments later Di Natale struck to give Udinese the lead. The captain sprung the offside trap from an Andrea Lazzari ball over the top and placed his precise angled drive into the far bottom corner.
The game took another twist when Juan Jesus received his second yellow card for treading on the back of Muriel’s heel as he was going clear.
Handanovic blocked another Di Natale free kick, this time kept low, then the goalkeeper rushed off his line to smother at the captain’s feet after a Guarin error. Di Natale felt he was tripped by Alvaro Pereira in the box, but the referee awarded a corner.
Muriel doubled Udinese’s advantage by running on to a splendid Dusan Basta through ball to go clear and his angled drive smashed across Handanovic into the far bottom corner.
Tommaso Rocchi was given his debut for the Nerazzurri, but it was another veteran who took the headlines. Giovanni Pasquale chested down a long ball and rolled it across for Di Natale to come sliding in from six yards, completing his brace.
Palacio went clear after a defensive error, but Thomas Heurtaux timed his tackle perfectly to take the ball off his feet before he could shoot.
Sent off: Juan Jesus 65 (I)