Inter reclaimed the lead in the Serie A table tonight after a hard-fought 2-1 victory over Udinese, thanks to a late, late goal by Wesley Sneijder.
Inter welcomed bogey team Udinese at San Siro hoping to bounce back from a couple of disappointing results in Serie A and the Champions League.
The match was played at a high rhythm from the start. The first chance came in the 9th minute, when Samuel Eto’o sent in a great cross from the right, which was met by Sulley Muntari at the far post, but the midfielder sent the ball over the bar.
Three minutes later, Simone Pepe responded for Udinese with a shot from the edge of the area that went just over the crossbar.
Inter opened the score in the 22nd minute, when on a counterattack Eto’o found Dejan Stankovic near the edge of the area, and the midfielder fired a trademark thunderbolt toward the top corner that beat goalkeeper Samir Handanovic.
However, that lead didn’t last long, as just five minutes later Serie A top scorer Antonio Di Natale broke the offside trap on a pass by Gokhan Inler and coolly finished the ball past Julio Cesar.
The home side tried to respond immediately, and in the 29th minute Lucio had a chance with a header on a free kick from Wesley Sneijder, but he sent it straight into Handanovic’s grasp.
Inter took control of the proceedings after the equaliser, and just after the half hour mark there was another chance as Eto’o dribbled his way into the area, before being closed down by the Udinese defence.
In the 39th minute Mario Balotelli, who had come in to replace the injured Diego Milito 14 minutes earlier, fired a dangerous shot from the edge of the area that was well saved by Handanovic.
Udinese wasted a huge chance to take the lead three minutes later, when Alexis Sanchez controlled a long pass inside the area, dribbled past Lucio, but then fired the ball well over the bar from a great position.
The last chance of an eventful first half came in the 45th minute, when Eto’o’s shot from the edge of the area went just over the crossbar.
(Antonio Di Natale found the net yet again for Udinese in the first half against Inter)
No changes were made by either coach during half time. The first chance of the second half was again for Eto'o, who controlled a great pass by Sneijder near the edge of the area, turned around and fired on goal, but it was an easy save for Handanovic.
Di Natale was a threat again in the 51st minute, when he tried a first-time finish on a low cross by Inler, and only a deflection by Inter captain Javier Zanetti sent the ball wide.
Udinese looked stronger in the second half after a period of suffering at the end of the first half, but the next chance came from Stankovic, who fired another dangerous shot with the outside of his foot that went just wide of the far post in the 65th minute.
Two minutes later, another shot by Stankovic led to a huge chance, as Handanovic failed to hold on to it, and Muntari somehow failed to put the rebound away, firing the ball over the bar from close range.
In the last twenty minutes, the match continued to be balanced, but for a long time neither side managed to produce any chances.
However, in the 86th minute there was a chance for Udinese, as on a counterattack Di Natale played the ball to Aleksandar Lukovic, who after making a long run towards the area fired his shot wide.
A minute later, Inter responded with a chance for Eto'o, who dribbled his way into the area from the left and tried a shot toward the far post from a difficult position, which was parried away by Handanovic.
A minute before full time, Di Natale had a chance to win the match for Udinese, but his shot from the left side of the area was superbly saved by Julio Cesar.
After Balotelli called for a penalty in the 92nd minute for an alleged foul by Cristian Zapata, Inter found the winning goal seconds through Sneijder, who placed the ball coolly at the far post to make it 2-1 Inter.
So in the end the Nerazzurri managed to win a hard-fought match against their bogey team, and they are now momentarily on top of the Serie A table with 16 points.
Danilo Pochini, Goal.com