Inter fought back from an early Udinese opener to conquer the Stadio Friuli with Wesley Sneijder’s brace and stay in the Champions League race.
The Friulani had been running out of steam in recent weeks with just two wins in the last 11 rounds, but were still only three points adrift of Champions League qualifying spots. Mauricio Isla, Andrea Coda and the suspended Gelson Fernandes missed out. Inter were still unbeaten under Andrea Stramaccioni, but their chances of finishing in the top three were almost nullified. Javier Zanetti, Diego Forlan, Angelo Palombo, Walter Samuel, Cristian Chivu and Luc Castaignos were all sidelined. Wesley Sneijder got his first start since Stramaccioni took charge.
After just six minutes Udinese took the lead, as a spectacular Antonio Di Natale rabona (crossing his legs and hitting the ball with the back foot) sparked a promising move, then Pablo Armero surprised Douglas Maicon to set up Danilo for a screamer in off the inside of the near post from the edge of the box. It was the defender’s debut Serie A goal.
The Friulani went close to a second, as Dusan Basta’s cross was knocked on by Antonio Floro Flores for Asamoah to drill just wide.
Inter drew level in bizarre circumstances with Sneijder, who hit a seemingly simple daisy-cutter from the outside corner of the area, but it bobbled just in front of Samir Handanovic and squirmed past his outstretched hand. It was a howler from the Udinese goalkeeper.
Giampiero Pinzi and Fredy Guarin drilled off target from distance, as the two teams settled down a little better in defence after that chaotic start. Floro Flores tested Julio Cesar, but Inter turned the game around completely.
Diego Milito ran into the box and drew away two defenders, but smartly provided an inspired reverse pass for the unmarked Sneijder to delicately chip the on-rushing Handanovic.
Inter added a third goal with a classic counter-attack after Floro Flores had skipped past Lucio. Ricky Alvarez again sparked the move from the centre-circle and turned Danilo inside out for an angled drive that beat Handanovic and went in off the inside of the far post.
Udinese had penalty appeals for a Yuto Nagatomo handling offence on Dusan Basta’s cross, but the referee awarded a corner as his arm was across his chest. Floro Flores fired over from distance and a Sneijder free kick was over the bar at the end of a sparkling first half.
Floro Flores burst past Lucio at the dawn of the second half, but fell between the Brazilian and Nagatomo. Both Kwadwo Asamoah and Di Natale stung Julio Cesar’s palms as Udinese poured forward.
It left space for Inter on the counter and Maicon tested Handanovic after combining with Guarin, while Sneijder’s daisy-cutter skimmed the woodwork.
Udinese pushed hard with Gabriel Torje joining the attack, but Floro Flores forced a very tricky save out of Julio Cesar and Mehdi Benatia nodded over from a corner.
There was a nasty accidental collision in the final minute when Dejan Stankovic and Floro Flores clashed in midfield, the Inter man getting a kick to the ribcage and the Friulano falling heavily on to his shoulder.
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