Inter ended their losing streak, but only by fighting back from 2-0 down to hold Catania with Diego Forlan and Diego Milito.
This felt like the Last Chance Saloon for Claudio Ranieri, who had lost seven of the previous eight games in all competition without scoring a single goal in any of those defeats. Luc Castaignos continued his three-match ban, joining the injured Fredy Guarin, Ricky Alvarez, Cristian Chivu, Andrea Ranocchia, Douglas Maicon and Dejan Stankovic. However, Ranieri took a bold stand by dropping Wesley Sneijder in favour of a 4-4-2 system with Diego Forlan wide left, Diego Milito and Giampaolo Pazzini in attack.
Catania are securing something more than mere safety this season and made the trip without Marco Biagianti, Andrea Campagnolo and Alessandro Potenza, but maintained their trident. The Sicilians had only ever picked up one point in 16 previous visits to San Siro in all competition, which was 1-1 in December 1961, followed by 13 consecutive defeats.
Forlan hit his daisy-cutter at Juan Pablo Carrizo, then another long-range effort was beaten away with real difficulty. Forlan was the only Inter attacking threat in the opening stages and at the 14th minute a dangerous volley into the ground again tested Carrizo at the near post.
However, it was Catania who took the lead with their first chance. Walter Samuel was keeping Alejandro Gomez in play to ruin the offside trap, who dummied Yuto Nagatomo to smash an angled drive across Julio Cesar.
Lucio rushed back to prod a chipped pass off the foot of Gomez from eight yards, while the San Siro crowd lost patience and jeered loudly as Catania strung together a long series of passes in the Inter half.
Giampaolo Pazzini had penalty appeals for his rather dramatic fall after contact with Nicola Legrottaglie.
It was so nearly 2-0 on 36 minutes, as Pablo Barrientos sprung the offside trap on a Sergio Almiron ball over the top, but he slipped at the crucial moment and only scuffed the ball straight at Julio Cesar.
That warning was not heeded, as Catania did double their advantage. It was a bad decision from the linesman, as Marchese was offside down the left flank when he rolled across for the easiest of Mariano Izco tap-ins.
The Nerazzurri were loudly jeered off the field at half-time by the sparse San Siro crowd. Ranieri made changes at the break, introducing Sneijder for Marco Davide Faraoni. They finally did create a great chance with Diego Milito nodding a free kick at Carrizo, but was flagged offside anyway.
Gomez sprung the offside trap and was totally alone against Julio Cesar, who did well to charge off his line and clear, then Barrientos slipped with a lob over the empty net. Once again the Inter goalkeeper had to run out to midfield in order to clear from Gomez.
Ranieri completed his substitutions with Andrea Poli and Joel Obi replacing Esteban Cambiasso and Angelo Palombo. Sneijder’s corner was nodded into Carrizo’s arms before Milito could get a touch.
Forlan did get Inter back into the game, as he gathered wide left from Sneijder, cut in to commit Marco Motta and blasted in at the near post to surprise Carrizo. It was the Nerazzurri’s first goal for 543 minutes of football – over nine hours – and Forlan’s first in 12 official games.
It was the spark they needed, as the Nerazzurri managed to claw their way back from 2-0 down to 2-2. Milito was left in acres of space down the right side of the box for a long Forlan pass and he smashed a powerful right-foot finish into the far top corner.
Milito squeezed between two defenders, but Carrizo smothered at his feet. Catania really should’ve scored when Francesco Lodi found an unmarked Felipe Seymour, but the lob was incredibly weak and straight into Julio Cesar’s arms.
It was wide open in the final stages with either side capable of scoring. Substitute Ebagua fired at the Inter goalkeeper, but at the other end Obi pounced on a defensive error and crossed for the unmarked Pazzini, who got the ball caught under his feet and Carrizo was able to parry with his leg from six yards.
In the final minute of stoppages, Sneijder had a free kick from distance, but it was deflected out for a corner off the defensive wall.