The Japanese defender's header midway through the second half was enough to claim victory for the Nerazzurri and continue their ascent up the league standingsInter continued their revival from their early season woes as they defeated Genoa 1-0 at the Marassi in Tuesday's only Serie A matchup.
Yuto Nagatomo's second half strike was enough to claim all three points for the visitors, who could have won by an even greater margin but for the heroics of Sebastian Frey in the home goal.
The visitors started the better, and Giampaolo Pazzini had the first chance of the match eight minutes in, forcing Frey into a smart stop from a one-one-one following Thiago Motta’s precise through ball.
Inter were in the ascendancy from then on, but they could not find a way past Frey in the hosts’ goal despite controlling the remainder of the first half. The Frenchman produced a stunning double save shortly after the half hour mark, first showing admirable reflexes to block Walter Samuel’s firm header from a corner, before reacting quickest to block the rebound from Diego Milito on the goal line.
Genoa appeared to be more focused after the interval, and had a goal ruled out for offside in the 57th minute, after Andreas Granqvist was judged to be just ahead of the last defender when he headed in a corner from the right.
However, it was Inter who would strike first 10 minutes later, through a headed goal from one of the shortest players on the pitch. Ricky Alvarez, on as a half-time substitute, sent in a delightful ball from the right flank towards Nagatomo, who rose highest to nod home at the far post.
Claudio Ranieri’s men could have scored again two minutes later, after Milito fed Pazzini inside the area, but an outstretched leg by Frey was enough to block the Italian’s goal-bound effort.
The Genoa keeper was at it again in the 77th minute, getting his fingertips to Alvarez’s testing drive from 25 yards out, diverting the substitute’s effort onto the far post.
The game was delayed for a short spell in the 82nd minute, after a member of Genoa’s staff was stretchered from the field for medical treatment after collapsing on the sidelines.
Despite increasing pressure by Inter as the game neared its conclusion, the home side almost snatched an equaliser in injury time, but were denied by a superb double save from Julio Cesar. The Brazilian first stopped an effort by Marco Rossi before sticking up a hand to tip Miguel Veloso’s follow up over the bar and preserve the result for the visitors.
Inter now move up to seventh place in the Serie A table with 20 points, leapfrogging Genoa by two points and currently sit 10 behind leaders Juventus.