Inter’s run of seven straight League wins came to a shock conclusion with 1-0 defeat at Lecce, but had two goals disallowed.
The Nerazzurri were on an amazing run of seven consecutive Serie A victories, although they lost midweek in the Coppa Italia quarter-final to Napoli. They were right back in the Scudetto race, but Diego Forlan, Sulley Muntari and Dejan Stankovic were still unavailable. Wesley Sneijder returned from the start as they moved to a 4-3-1-2 system. Lecce were beaten 4-1 at San Siro in December and had a series of absentees including Moris Carrozzieri, Manuel Giandonato, Andrea Esposito and Julio Sergio. More importantly, they were the only Serie A side still without a single home victory this season. New signings Martin Miglionico and Manuele Blasi went straight into the starting XI with Haris Seferovic on the bench.
Inter should’ve scored after 10 minutes when Benassi tried to dribble round Diego Milito in his own penalty area and failed, but was fortunate that the angle was too narrow and El Principe’s shot flashed across the empty goal.
Lecce had a great chance on the counter when Luis Muriel turned on the turbo to sprint clearly past Walter Samuel and forced Julio Cesar into a save with his knee at the near post. The Inter defence was again torn apart, as Muriel’s volleyed pass rolled across the six-yard box, but there was nobody ready to tap in.
The Nerazzurri hit back from a corner with Samuel’s free header, but Benassi flew to flap it off the line. Giampaolo Pazzini sprung the offside trap from Esteban Cambiasso’s ball over the top to force another great one-handed Benassi save at the near post with his angled drive.
However, Lecce opened the scoring when Guillermo Giacomazzi chested down a Massimo Oddo cross and smashed the half-volley from just inside the box.
Moments later, the Salentini almost made it 2-0, but Julio Cesar parried from Muriel after a deflected David Di Michele effort. Cracks showed in the Inter squad, as Pazzini and Sneijder exchanged heated words after the striker’s miss.
Ricky Alvarez replaced Sneijder at the break, returning to the 4-4-2 system. Inter did get the ball in the net when a Samuel header from an Alvarez corner cracked against the upright, then Cambiasso nodded in the rebound, but was flagged marginally offside.
Inter had another goal disallowed on 71 minutes, this time for Milito’s offside position when a corner took two touches and he tapped in the loose ball from six yards.
The Nerazzurri were mainly dangerous only from set plays and Giacomazzi’s clearance steered away a Milito over-head kick. Substitute Seferovic dribbled past Javier Zanetti in the area, but the pass towards Di Michele was crucially intercepted.
Benassi flew to beat a Pazzini header off the line from another dead-ball situation in the final minute. From that incident, Lecce went on the counter-attack and Julio Cesar fingertipped a Di Michele rising strike out from under the bar.
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