Milan-based side strengthen grip on second place by notching three points at home over the visitors from Florence, in end-to-end contest
Inter defeated Fiorentina 3-1 on Sunday afternoon, with goals from Giampaolo Pazzini, Esteban Cambiasso, and Coutinho at San Siro to solidify second place position in Serie A in the wake of rivals AC Milan securing the title.
Coach Leonardo had to deal with a number of injuries, including star midfielders Wesley Sneijder and Dejan Stankovic, utilising Coutinho and Houssine Kharja in their absence. He also had the second-leg of their Coppa Italia semi-final with Roma in mind as Lucio was rested, with Marco Materazzi as his replacement. Pazzini earned a starting berth after his late brace against Cesena one week ago.
Meanwhile, Sinisa Mihajlovic only made one change to the line-up that defeated Udinese 5-2 with Cesare Natali at centre-back instead of Per Kroldrup.
The Viola nearly caused an early shock as Alberto Gilardino made contact with Alessio Cerci's whipped in ball and volleyed an effort off the crossbar from close range with Julio Cesar seemingly beaten on 10 minutes.
Inter repaid the favour just one minute later. Pazzini received the ball inside the area and turned Alessandro Gamberini before smashing a shot which was tipped onto the goal frame by Artur Boruc in a very open first phase of the game.
Pazzini eventually did get a goal against his former team to make it 1-0 mid-way through the first half. Samuel Eto'o beat two defenders with some close control on the left side of the area before finding a gap to feed the Italian, who did well to hold off Natali and fire low into the far corner.
It took no time at all for Inter to double their lead. Eto'o whipped in a free kick and Cambiasso rose above the marking of Manuel Pasqual to head home leaving the visitors with a mountain to climb.
The hosts should have made it three goals on the stroke of half-time as Maicon arrived at the end of a flowing move that involved Eto'o, Kharja, and Coutinho, however Boruc produced a fantastic save to keep Mihajlovic's side within touching distance.
Runners-up | Cambiasso celebrates his goal but Inter watched their rivals secure the title
Fiorentina began the second-half with more energy in their search for goals as Gilardino somehow failed to find the net from six yards after moving past Andrea Ranocchia in the area, but he prodded wide from a position where he certainly should have scored.
Both coaches made changes to their attack with Goran Pandev replacing Eto'o and Adrian Mutu coming on for the ineffective Gaetano D'Agostino.
Leonardo looked to close out the win by adding youngster Joel Obi to the midfield, though Fiorentina pulled one back. Gilardino made up for his earlier miss with a run straight through the defence and a powerful finish on 74 minutes.
Inter restored their two-goal cushion from a set-piece, however. Coutinho's effort from 20 yards curled over the wall and into the bottom corner to ensure the victory, despite Fiorentina failing to take advantage of Lucio's error that sent Mutu on the break in the dying moments.
The win took Leonardo's side four points ahead of third-placed Napoli as the visitors from Florence remained in mid-table.