Novara achieved an incredible 1-0 victory away to Inter at San Siro thanks to Andrea Caracciolo, despite going down to 10 men!
The Nerazzurri had to get back on track after their 4-0 demolition at the hands of Roma and welcomed Dejan Stankovic for his first appearance since mid-December. Wesley Sneijder also returned in a new 4-3-2-1 system with Ricky Alvarez and Diego Milito, but Douglas Maicon was suspended and Walter Samuel injured. Novara also adjusted their tactics to a 3-5-2, as Giuseppe Mascara dropped out at the last minute, joining Francesco Marianini, Carlalberto Ludi and Taka Morimoto.
There was a curious incident before kick-off, as the fans reacted to recent reports the former England manager will take over at San Siro. “We don’t want Fabio Capello!” read a large banner in the Curva Nord.
Samir Ujkani flew to palm away the first shot of the game from Sneijder, who unleashed a rocket from 20 yards. Cristian Chivu then tried from a similar position, but it was well off target.
Paolo Hernan Dellafiore picked up a muscular injury early on and was forced into a substitution. Andrea Caracciolo just failed to get on the end of a Giuseppe Gemiti assist in the area and his free header was easily smothered, then Marco Rigoni’s strike forced a corner, as Novara started to get into the game.
Sneijder’s angled drive flashed across the face of goal to skim the far post and Milito at full stretch was unable to get the tap-in. Caracciolo went down under a challenge from Lucio, but there was not much in it and the referee ordered him to get back up.
Inter were starting to panic and Caracciolo flew past Ivan Cordoba, so Julio Cesar had to rush off his line to make a well-timed intervention, turning the ball out for a corner with ‘The Heron’ clear on goal.
Stankovic horribly scuffed a shot from the edge of the box set up for him by Andrea Poli. Inter had a great chance when Poli gathered from Alvarez and was pulling the trigger as Garcia came sliding in. Poli wanted a penalty, but the referee judged that he had cleanly blocked the shot.
Ujkani smothered a timid Sneijder angled drive at the near post.In first half stoppages, Matteo Centurioni was booked for a two-footed tackle on Stankovic, sparking a scuffle between players.
Giampaolo Pazzini replaced Alvarez at half-time for another change of system to 4-3-1-2. Milito went past Morganella only to fire straight at Ujkani, while Lucio’s acrobatic looping finish was well parried by Ujkani.
From that move, Novara went on the counter-attack and took the shock lead at San Siro. Caracciolo picked his spot perfectly to curl a left-foot finish into the far bottom corner of the net past Julio Cesar at full stretch.
Inter fought back immediately and Stankovic drilled just wide from distance, while Claudio Ranieri threw on Diego Forlan, leaving Pazzini as the centre-forward. Caracciolo was sent clear on goal, but halted for a dubious Rigoni foul in the build-up.
Sneijder fired wide after a solo run, but Novara were always dangerous on the counter and Rigoni’s half-volley was palmed away by Julio Cesar just before Caracciolo could get on the end of it.
Forlan was playing wide right and tried a long-range attempt that flew well over the bar. Novara went closer, as Julio Cesar was at full stretch to palm away a Michele Morganella snapshot that bounced right in front of him.
However, Ivan Radovanovic received a second yellow card for kicking the ball away when complaining about a soft free kick on Yuto Nagatomo. It was an incredibly foolish thing to do. Ujkani smothered the resulting Sneijder set piece.
It was now a siege and Stankovic fired over and Sneijder was off target from the edge of the box. Sneijder thought he’d done it at the 88th minute when he cut in from the left and the screamer cracked against the underside of the bar, but it came back out for Novara to desperately clear.
Esteban Cambiasso curled wide of the far post from just inside the area. In the final seconds of stoppages, Pazzini controlled with his back to goal and spun round, but Ujkani somehow managed to smother the fierce strike and get it under control.
Sent off: Radovanovic 80 (N)