Share of the spoils in Naples sees the San Siro side end up behind AC Milan and the hosts earn a place in next season's Champions League
Inter wrapped up Serie A's runners-up spot on Sunday night after a 1-1 draw with third placed Napoli, who in turn have sealed qualification for next season's Champions League group stage.
Samuel Eto'o gave Inter an early lead which Juan Zuniga cancelled out in first-half injury-time before the sides played out an uneventful second-half that, almost inevitably, concluded with a share of the spoils - the outcome both clubs seemed to desire.The match began at a breakneck pace, as both sides stormed out of the blocks in search on an all-important early goal.
Ezequiel Lavezzi bundled his way through the Inter back line as early as the second minute, but his finish lacked direction and power and trundled through to Julio Cesar.
At the other end, Eto’o fired over the crossbar from 25 yards after he was presented with a clear shot on goal by a neat exchange between Diego Milito and Houssine Kharja.
But Eto’o made no mistake with an almost identical chance in the 15th minute. Strike-partner Milito stroked the ball to the Cameroonian, who unleashed a thunderous right-footed drive which slammed past Morgan De Sanctis to open the scoring.
Napoli rallied and piled forward in attempt to quickly restore parity. However, with Edinson Cavani absent, they lacked a cutting edge and were restricted to a series of poor long-range efforts. Zuniga and Walter Gargano failed to hit the target with wayward strikes, while Hugo Campagnaro’s weak effort failed to trouble Julio Cesar.
At this stage, the visitors looked to be in control as the half edged towards a conclusion, and they twice went close to extending their lead in the final five minutes of the half.
In the 42nd minute, a lightning counter attack ended with Eto’o racing away down the left and sweeping the ball across the face of the box to Milito, whose angled drive was deflected just wide of the upright.
Hard-fought | It was a spirited first-half but a draw suited both sides in the end
Kharja fed the resultant corner to Maicon, and the Brazilian worked a yard before curling a fantastic shot beyond Morgan De Sanctis despairing dive only to watch in agony as the ball crashed back off the base of the post.
Yet, despite these scares, it was Napoli who were to have the last laugh as Zuniga took advantage of heroic work by Christian Maggio and a comedy of errors by the Inter defence to slam home from six yards in the first minute of stoppage time.
The Inter played looked stunned as they trudged off for the half-time break, but reappeared with a renewed sense of purpose.
Milito, in particular, was in no mood to hang about and breezed past three Napoli players before side-footing a low shot towards goal. De Sanctis was alert to the danger, however, and plunged to push the ball into the ground and up over the crossbar.
Back came the hosts, and Julio Cesar was forced into action in the 50th minute when he dropped to save from Marek Hamsik.
Then, five minutes later, Zuniga darted to the front post to meet Maggio’s low centre but only succeeded in prodding the ball wide under pressure from Maicon.
From then on in, both sides looked more than content to play for the draw as their respective midfields took turns of passing the ball back and forth in neat triangles with little attacking purpose as the match headed towards the inevitable final score of 1-1.
The result ensures that the final weekend’s matches are meaningless for both sides. Inter wrap up the 2010/11 season by hosting Catania, while Napoli travel north to face Juventus in Turin, with both matches taking place on Sunday evening as the final weekend fixtures all kick off simultaneously.
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