Serie A Week 12 - 19 Nov 2011 (17.00 UK)
Inter 2 - 1 Cagliari
Thiago Motta 54 (I), Coutinho 60 (I), Larrivey 88 (C)
Stadio Giuseppe Meazza

Inter rattled the crossbar twice before defeating Cagliari 2-1 on Davide Ballardini’s debut with Thiago Motta and Philippe Coutinho on target.

The Nerazzurri knew they had to get back on track after disappointing results, but had to revamp the defence without Lucio, Douglas Maicon, Yuto Nagatomo and the suspended Cristian Chivu. Other absentees were Diego Forlan, Sulley Muntari and Emiliano Viviano.

Wesley Sneijder was due to start, but picked up a problem during the warm-up and so was replaced at the last minute by Philippe Coutinho.

Cagliari sacked Massimo Ficcadenti last week to make way for Davide Ballardini, their third Coach of the campaign.

Albin Ekdal stepped into the trequartista role for the injured Andrea Cossu, while El Kabir, Davide Astori and Sebastian Eriksson were also out.

Ekdal had a chance after six minutes as he won back the ball and burst into the box to fire wide, but the game took a long time to get into gear.

It exploded into life at the 20th when Giampaolo Pazzini gathered on the edge of the box and spun round to hit an absolute screamer from the edge of the box that Michael Agazzi flapped on to the crossbar. The rattle of the woodwork made it clear just how powerful the finish was.

Inter were again denied by the frame of the goal a few minutes later, as this time Mauro Zarate’s free kick curled over the wall and was again fingertipped on to the top corner of the crossbar by an impressive Agazzi.

Esteban Cambiasso was allowed a free header from nine yards, but nodded over, then a set piece was not cleared effectively though no Inter player could get the final touch.

Claudio Ranieri surprised many when replacing Zarate at half-time with Ricky Alvarez, who was originally not even on the bench until Sneijder’s injury.

Inter finally broke the deadlock when Coutinho earned a free kick down the left channel. Alvarez whipped into the box for Pazzini to glance it into the path of Thiago Motta, who controlled and tapped in from close range. However, replays show he was offside and may well have also handled.

Moments later, Coutinho’s daisy-cutter skimmed the base of the near post as Agazzi had it covered.

Coutinho did get Inter’s second goal in similar fashion and again Alvarez was involved. The Argentine threaded through for Coutinho, who picked his spot and rolled a right-foot low strike into the near bottom corner before Daniele Conti could complete his sliding block.

Joaquin Larrivey had a chance for Cagliari, but Julio Cesar comfortably smothered. Larrivey thought he had pulled one back, but he was flagged offside for a very tight position. Victor Ibarbo’s effort was charged down.

A spectacular Dejan Stankovic scissor-kick volley from the D was well-captured by Agazzi. 

Cagliari did pull one back in the final minute, as Radja Nainggolan released an angled drive and Larrivey sprung the offside trap to redirect it from seven yards with the tip of his boot.

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Inter: Julio Cesar; Jonathan (Faraoni 87), Ranocchia, Samuel, Zanetti; Stankovic, Thiago Motta, Cambiasso; Coutinho (Obi 68); Zarate (Alvarez 46), Pazzini
Cagliari: Agazzi; Pisano, Canini, Ariaudo, Agostini; Biondini (Rui Sampaio 79), Conti, Nainggolan; Ekdal (Ibarbo 64); Thiago Ribeiro, Nené (Larrivey 58)
Ref: Damato