A stunning second half fightback from Livorno earned them a highly commendable home draw with Inter.
It is a result that few would have imagined possible after goals from Hernanes and Rodrigo Palacio put the visitors in complete control at half time.
The game began in a laboured manner, with the visitors predictably having the lion’s share of the possession but being unable to create a significant opening.
With the game consistently bogged down in midfield, the two sides only mustered one shot on target between them in the opening 25 minutes. Zdravko Kuzmanovic sliced a shot high and wide with an effort that largely summed up a drab opening period.
That almost changed on 27 minutes however, when Hernanes brought the ball back onto his favoured left foot before unleashing a shot from just outside the penalty area that curled just wide of home keeper Francesco Bardi’s right-hand post.
The Amaranto threatened even less than their visitors, though forward Ishak Belfodil did trouble the Nerazzurri rearguard by getting on the end of a left wing cross. Unfortunately for the relegation threatened side, his weak header was comfortably saved by Samir Handanovic.
Walter Mazzarri’s team finally created a chance of note on 35 minutes. Hernanes was again the orchestrator, clipping a delightful ball into the path of Danilo D’Ambrosio, who had evaded attention on the left. His header however was well kept out by the onrushing Bardi.
A minute later though the opener arrived, and it came from a likely source. After forward Mauro Icardi missed his kick inside the six yard box, the ball broke kindly for Hernanes, who drilled the ball confidently beyond Bardi with his right foot.
The goal seemed to settle the visitors, who up until the moments preceding the goal had struggled to break down a stubborn Livorno outfit. Kuzmanovic tried his luck again from distance just before half time and this time his strike was true, requiring Bardi to make a fine save to his left to tip the ball over.
The Amaranto could not hold out until half time without conceding a second though. Palacio was the beneficiary of some slack home defending to fire a volley beyond the helpless Bardi in what was the final action of the first half.
The second period began much in the same way as the first so it was something of a surprise when Livorno halved the deficit eight minutes after the restart.
A well worked corner routine led to the ball being fed to Amaranto striker Paulinho, who arrowed a shot into the top corner to give his side hope of staging an unlikely comeback.
Coach Mimmo Di Carlo then made two quick substitutions as he looked to inject yet more life into his team, with Emerson and Belfodil being replaced by Joseph Duncan and Innocent Emeghara respectively.
The home crowd, subdued for the most part before their team’s goal, suddenly found their voice and for the following ten minutes Inter were forced to absorb some pressure.
The Amaranto were unable to create another clear cut opportunity though and it was Inter who threatened to make the game safe as Guarin hit the side-netting after rounding Bardi.
The Nerazzurri, however, hit the self-destruct button with five minutes remaining when Guarin inexplicably attempted to pass the ball back to Handanovic from around the halfway line. The pass was woefully underhit and put substitute Emeghara through on goal. He made no mistake, slotting the ball past the Inter goalkeeper and sending the home crowd into raptures. Mazzarri’s dismay was obvious, with the tactician holding his head in his hands.
The result comes as another blow to Inter’s hopes of qualifying for the Europa League and to Mazzarri’s personal attempts to persuade President Erick Thohir that he is the man to take the Nerazzurri forward. For Livorno, it could be a vital point as they continue their fight for survival.