Diego Milito got his first goal of 2013, as Inter ended their crisis by beating Chievo 3-1 in an entertaining match.
The Nerazzurri were in crisis after one win in seven rounds, including two defeats, but hoped to rely on their excellent record against Chievo. Home and away, they had won their last four on the trot against the Flying Donkeys without conceding a single goal.
Fredy Guarin and Cristian Chivu sat out bans, while Walter Samuel, Luca Castellazzi and Gaby Mudingayi were injured. Mateo Kovacic was due to get his first Serie A start, but pulled out with a sprained ankle, so Diego Milito returned from injury to complete a 4-3-3 trident. Chievo missed Gennaro Sardo, Boukary Drame and Adrian Stoian, but started ex-Milan men Francesco Acerbi and Alberto Paloschi.
It was the ideal start for Inter, who took the lead after 95 seconds. A corner was not dealt with properly and Cassano went to drive a pass back into the six-yard box, but it squirmed past Cristian Puggioni at the base of the near post. It was a terrible error from the goalkeeper.
Acerbi should’ve scored an equaliser when he was allowed a free header from a Cyril Thereau free kick, but nodded inches wide of the far post.
They did not heed the warning, as Chievo did draw level. A Bostjan Jokic cross from the left flank took a deflection, but Luca Rigoni was left totally unmarked to nod in from six yards.
Estevan Cambiasso was back from injury and his daisy-cutter from a Cassano assist was turned out for a corner by Puggioni’s outstretched boot. From that set play, Andrea Ranocchia soared above the crowd to nod in at the near top corner from 12 yards.
Another Chievo free kick threatened, as Samir Handanovic had to beat it off the head of Marco Andreolli and immediately sparked a counter that Cassano rolled across for Walter Gargano, but Puggioni performed a crucial save.
Gargano had another great opportunity, as his free kick from the edge of the box smacked against the upright.
Milito had not played since early January, but was back with a bang and a goal after the restart. He gathered Cambiasso’s pass, turned just inside the box and smashed a right-foot finish across Puggioni. It was Il Principe’s first goal of 2013.
Just a minute later Puggioni needed a desperate double save to deny first Rodrigo Palacio and then Yuto Nagatomo.
Cassano rolled across the six-yard box for Palacio, who just failed to get a toe to it under pressure, while the Argentine also fired another FantAntonio assist off target.
Ricky Alvarez came off the bench and his angled drive was denied by Puggioni’s legs at the base of the near post.
San Siro erupted into a standing ovation as Dejan Stankovic made his first appearance since undergoing Achilles tendon surgery in May 2012.
There was a double Inter scoring opportunity, but Puggioni parried from Nagatomo on a splendid Alvarez pass and then Palacio. Acerbi charged down Cassano’s shot in the box, but a Perparim Hetemaj effort was deflected on to the side-netting and in stoppages an Acerbi free kick flashed just wide.