Inter v Lecce match report and reactions
After week 30 of this Serie A season Inter are now only 2 points behind league leaders AC Milan and the race for the Scudetto is now well and truly on. But they need to play much better than they did today in the Derby after next weeks international break. There was a spark of creativity and flair missing from today’s game but as I said in my preview I was expecting Inter to ease off a bit for this match and to be fair they got the result that was needed to take full advantage of Milan’s slip up last night.
1 Julio Cesar; 13 Maicon, 6 Lucio, 26 Chivu, 4 Zanetti; 19 Cambiasso, 8 Thiago Motta; 10 Sneijder (14 Kharja, 84); 27 Pandev (29 Coutinho, 73), 7 Pazzini, 9 Eto’o (5 Stankovic, 94)
Subs not used: 12 Castellazzi, 17 Mariga, 23 Materazzi, 55 Nagatomo.
22 Rosati; 40 Tomovic (2 Donati, 50), 13 Ferrario, 14 Fabiano, 28 Brivio (19 Piatti, 91); 10 Olivera, 20 Vives, 18 Giacomazzi (27 Jeda, 83), 91 Bertolacci, 11 Mesbah; 9 Corvia.
Subs not used: 81 Benassi, 4 Gustavo, 21 Grossmuller, 32 Coppola.
Coach: Luigi De Canio
Referee: Daniele Orsato from Schio
Notes. Bookings: Giacomazzi 41, Lucio 47, Rosati 53, Thiago Motta 70, Tomovic 85, Chivu 80.
Added time: 2 + 3. Spectators: 62,477
AC Milan eased off, but Inter didn’t and Pazzini was the one to start the climb back, his 52nd minute goal taking Inter to within 2 points of the leaders, and bringing victory to the Nerazzurri in the match against Lecce in Week 30 of Serie A.
Lecce didn’t come here to lose however, and towards the end of the match grew in stature. At the end, Julio Cesar had all his past errors forgiven when he managed to keep out a close-range blast from Bertolacci with a marvellous save.
FIRST HALF –
For the match against Lecce, Leonardo couldn’t play Cordoba, who was banned, but Zanetti had recovered and took his place on the left of the defence, with Maicon on the right and the Lucio-Chivu duo in the centre. Cambiasso and Motta were in midfield with Sneijder feeding the attacking trio Pandev-Pazzini-Eto’o.
After 4 minutes Inter had two attempts on goal, the first from Pazzini who didn’t really get hold of the ball and then Sneijder, but his chance was wasted. The Dutchman tried again a minute later, after Pandev’s deep cross, but his shot on the turn didn’t cause problems for Rosati. In the 17th minute, Lecce showed they could be dangerous, penetrating the area with Brivio and Corvia whose left-footed shot on the turn went just wide.
Sneijder is always dangerous when it comes to free-kicks and this was no exception. In the 20th minute his curling right-footed shot was just wide. Then Chivu made a superb challenge on Bertolacci at the edge of the penalty area in the 33rd minute and Maicon blocked the Lecce midfielder’s left-footed effort in the 36th.
Two minutes later, the teams went in for the interval with the score at 0-0. There was a lot of action but few shots on target. The first half of Inter v Lecce was well-balanced, but the team from Puglia showed that they were not afraid to attack.
During the break, the Nerazzurra Under-19 team who won the 2011 Viareggio tournament did a lap of the pitch with the trophy and the champions of the future received a long, heartfelt ovation from the stands.
SECOND HALF –
The second half got underway and after just 2 minutes Lucio received a booking for handball which means he will be disqualified for the derby against AC MIlan. In the 51st minute Rosati’s marvellous save denied Inter the lead as Sneijder crossed and found Pazzini’s head.
Pazzo came close but the goal arrived a minute later: an assist from Pandev, Pazzini trapped the ball on his chest and, although he was being challenged by Vives, beat Rosati, placing the ball right-footed into the corner of the net. Rosati was then booked for protesting about a hypothetical handball on the part of the Nerazzurri striker, in the lead-up to the goal.
In the 73rd minute, Pandev came off for Coutinho. And while captain Zanetti raced down the wing like a 20-year-old, in spite of the constant pressure from Tomovic, who was later booked by referee Orsato, Inter tried to break down the Lecce wall with constant attacks, including attempts from Cambiasso first and then Coutinho (on 80 minutes). Chivu’s nasty foul on Bertolacci, earned Lecce a free-kick on the edge of the penalty area, which Olivera duly wasted, blasting against the wall on 81 minutes. In the 84th, Julio Cesar’s great save from Bertolacci’s close range shot following Olivera’s cross almost counted as another goal for Inter.
After 3 minutes of added time, Orsato blew his whistle to end the match: Inter didn’t waste the opportunity after AC Milan had lost to Palermo in yesterday’s evening kick-off and move up to 60 points, just two behind the Rossoneri. Eyes now will be turning towards Saturday 2 April, when Rossoneri and Nerazzurri face each other at the Stadio Meazza.
INTER 1-0 LECCE
Scorers: Pazzini 52
Shortly before this afternoon’s match between Inter and Lecce kicked off, in the ex-Sala Boccali within the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, president Massimo Moratti and chief executive Ernesto Paolillo met Fulvio Pea, his coaching staff and Inter’s Primavera squad, who recently won the 2011 edition of the Coppa Carnevale-Torneo di Viareggio.
“I’m extremely proud of you all,” said the president speaking to the Under-19 players and coaching staff. “It wasn’t easy to achieve what you did, considering the number of games you had to play one after another in different competitions. Many of you may well represent the future of Inter, so I hope you will all continue to give the best of yourselves. You deserve to receive the applause of the whole stadium.”
After thematch he had this to say “We’ve never had such positive second half of the season as this. We are still behind and we mustn’t get carried away, but we can say that up to now we have done what we were supposed to do,” said president Massimo Moratti to Inter Channel about Inter’s progress in the league since the beginning of the season. He continued: “Since the Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi, the team has changed, as regards play and results and this is what I am most interested in. Now we must go on as we are and see how far we get.”
The derby is coming up now and it will be treated like any other game: “We’ll take each game as it comes. I can say, however, that I am very pleased for all the players and for Leonardo, who has fitted in perfectly at the club. He has brought just what I wanted, a great spirit. I’m already satisfied now but, as a fan, and like all fans, I’m hoping for something more.”
Inter have really given their fans something to shout about this year: “Incredible emotions to experience and to remember. We must be prudent though, as must the players, continuing to work in this spirit of humility. The team are happy they have done what they had to do, that’s the main thing, and now we’ll try with professionalism and with our hearts to go on doing what we have to. If we manage it, it’ll be wonderful.”
The Nerazzurri president ended by speaking about the incredible rise and rise of Samuel Eto’o: “He’s an exceptional professional. Inter have rarely had a centre-forward who could provide us with the type of joy he does match after match. I think we should be grateful to him for his professionalism, his personality and his spirit of sacrifice, which maybe you don’t expect in a man like that. And it’s wonderful for his team-mates, too. The swap with Ibrahimovic was… fortunate for us.” Moratti also had some words of praise for Cristian Chivu: “I really wanted to compliment him on how well he played today.”
“I am a bit tired, I admit…” began a smiling Leonardo as he commented on the win over Lecce. “It was a tough game, against a very compact side that are capable of defending well and hitting quickly on the break. We did struggle a little to open up space and if we hadn’t played with intelligence we wouldn’t have won this match. But this team know what they are doing: there were very few gaps out there today and that’s why we needed to play intelligently and patiently – the players did really well again today.”
Thoughts naturally turn straight to the derby on 2 April, though there is the international break before then, and lots of Nerazzurri players will go away with their national sides: “The derby won’t decide things in the league,” Leonardo immediately pointed out, “because there will still be 21 points to play for. Football is perfect because of its imperfections. We try to control everything but we can’t and that’s the beauty of football. Today I can say that we’re where we wanted to be and the derby won’t be decisive, even if we win, because we’ll only have a one-point lead. Let’s not forget that Napoli and Udinese have been on great runs for a long time.
“Lots of our players will go away on international duty and selfishly you do worry a bit, although I’m the first to recognise how important your national team is. However, I also know that my players are good at recognising their limits. Ranocchia? He needs to recover and we’ll have to see how Motta is too – he felt some pain in his knee.”
Leonardo was then asked if a win in the derby would have a particularly sweet taste to it, because it would prove Rossoneri owner Silvio Berlusconi wrong. “I don’t bear any grudges,” the coach replied, “and I always look forward. We learn something from everything but I always look forward. I don’t forget anything, it’s still all inside me, but in a positive sense.”
Speaking to Sky Sport Italia, Julio Cesar commented on the victory that takes the Nerazzurri to within 2 points of league leaders AC Milan: “This was certainly a match that rates 10/10 on the scale of importance. We did what we had to do and we’re satisfied. It was an important match against an opponent that put every man behind the ball. We also had to risk a bit, but in the end it all turned out as it was supposed to. Congratulations to my team-mates and the fans who gave me a warm welcome during the pre-match warm-up. The save from Bertolacci? That’s the life of a goalkeeper: one day you make a mistake, the next day you save the game. Now I’m thinking of the national team and the derby with confidence. AC Milan are a great team and the derby is a special game, but it won’t be decisive because there will still be lots of games left. At any rate, it could certainly be a big step towards the title.”
“Getting the win was the most important thing because we had a big chance today. We were up against a Lecce side that played very well and were very compact. Then Pazzini got the goal which gave us the deserved win.” That was Javier Zanetti speaking to Inter Channel about today’s win over Lecce, which took the Nerazzurri to within two points of leaders AC Milan.
“From now on, it depends entirely on us,” the captain reflected. “And it’s we wanted: to close the gap between us and first place. Now we have three crucial games ahead of us and a derby with a lot riding on it. But we know what we’re capable of. I’ll join up with Argentina now, and then I’ll put everything I have into preparing for Milan in the best possible way – a game that promises to be one of the most exciting I’ve been involved in after the two-legged semi-final in the Champions League. Who are the favourites? Milan are because they’re ahead of us, but you can’t predict anything in a derby.”
Giampaolo Pazzini and Lecce. A striker up against the team that has so far provided him with his easiest pickings: he has netted more goals against Lecce than any against any other side: 7 out of 101 total, before the one that beat goalkeeper Rosati to give a very important victory to Inter. The Nerazzurri forward stated to Inter Channel, “Yes, they pointed out to me that Lecce is one of my favourite targets. Today it was important to win, the stadium was full and the air was tense. We’ve worked so hard to get here, and now we’ve done it.”
It was a decisive goal that sparked the protests of Lecce players for a presumed touch with his arm in the build-up: “I think the movement of my arm was a bit deceiving, but from the replay you see that I trapped it with my shoulder. I wasn’t even aware of it. I realized when I saw the protesting.”
A decisive attacker, here are his secrets: “I have my qualities. It’s clear that not being very tall and not having an imposing physique, I have to do something else. First off, I try to make myself available to the team and I’m happy when I can finish the work of the group.”
Pazzini continued to talk about the tough time that Sampdoria are going through: “I hadn’t expected it and I’m sorry for them. I could have imagined a bit of a struggle after Cassano and I left. But I really hope they pull through and remain in Serie A.”
Finally, a comment on what he expects for his first Milan derby: “I’ve been waiting for so long. It’s a huge match and we’re looking forward to it. But today we’re enjoying this comeback. It’s the first thing I heard when I arrived, and it’s what all my team-mates want. We’re not giving up now and we’ll fight to the end. How excited am I for the derby? I’m trying to stay as calm as possible, even if the preparation during the week is really difficult. Will I be physically fresher for not having played in the Champions League? Certainly, but if I had any say I’d be a bit more tired myself…”
So that’s it for Nerazzurri games for two weeks with the players away on international duty then on Saturday 2nd April it’s time for the all important Milan Derby which could put Inter back in their rightful place but we mustn’t think winning this game will secure the Scudetto as there’s still plenty of games left to defend the title.