Jose Mourinho’s Inter were looking to shake off the hoodoo of coach Gigi Del Neri as they took on his Sampdoria outfit at the San Siro.
During a tense opening period in which the Nerazzurri had looked to control the possession, the Blucerchiati left the field with a two man advantage following the dismissals of Walter Samuel and Ivan Cordoba within the space of seven first half minutes.
After the break the visitors took a far too passive approach and were made to pay when Giampaolo Pazzini also earned himself an early bath with 15 minutes left on the clock. With both sides refusing to throw everything forward, the deadlock remained unbroken to leave the Nerazzurri once again frustrated against Del Neri.
The game started brightly with Sampdoria immediately pushing forward with a positive attacking approach. As they looked to avoid any early risks, Inter took an organised approach from the off in a bid to take a hold of the possession.
Julio Cesar had to be called into action when Andrea Poli finished of a quick passing move with a powerful drive towards the bottom corner after 15 minutes. The Brazilian got down extremely well and made no mistakes as he smothered the shot on the deck.
The Nerazzurri looked to bypass the Blucerchiati defence with a string of cross field passes, but were often frustrated as Del Neri’s side played the offside trap to great effect. Doria were set up extremely well in the middle of the park and this seemed to frustrate the Beneamata as she failed to take a regular hold of the game.
Diego Milito knocked a wonderful ball down for strike partner Samuel Eto’o shortly before the half hour mark, but the Cameroonian could only snap a shot wide of the mark. Inter were starting to find their bearings and their superior possession was piling the pressure on the organised visitors.
Just 60 seconds later the game took an incredible twist when Samuel was awarded a straight red card for a raised elbow on Poli. After having been booked just minutes earlier, there was little choice for referee Tagliavento who was forced to throw the book at the Argentine.
As tensions got the better of them, Inter were incredibly reduced to nine shortly before the break when Cordoba picked up his second yellow card for an unnecessary foul on halfway. With the deadlock still to be broken it was still anyone’s game, but it seemed Del Neri’s curse was still holding true.
After the re-start the home side came out fighting with a clear intention to power past the visitors, despite being two men down. Milito almost carved out an opening from nowhere within the space of 60 seconds, but ‘El Principe’ ran into traffic just seconds before he could pull the trigger.
On 53 minutes Inter again went close when a Wesley Sneijder free kick flew just inches wide of the top corner. The San Siro faithful had expected the shot to ripple the inside of the net, and a huge groan followed as the fans let out their disappointment.
The referee was once again in the thick of the action shortly after, when Eto’o appeared to be down by Luciano Zauri just metres from goal. As Tagliavento rushed to the scene of the crime, he made no hesitation in brandishing a yellow card to the Cameroonian for simulation. Rather than talking himself into the book, coach Mourinho then began an ironic laughing fit on the touchline as he looked to display his discord.
Sampdoria pushed forward with a controlled approach, but they were causing far less danger in front of goal then they had done in the opening period. Although Del Neri had urged his men to be patient and wait for their chance, with the clock ticking down the Blucerchiati seemed surprisingly passive.
On 73 minutes Inter were handed a boost when Pazzini became the third player to earn an early bath after picking up his second yellow of the night.
The Nerazzurri immediately looked to capitalise, and Eto’o should have put his side ahead when Goran Pandev threaded him in with a clever ball from the edge of the box. The Cameroonian seemed to rush his shot, and he didn’t hold back his rage as Marco Storari blocked the effort on the deck.
As the sides left the field at full time, Sampdoria were clearly the happier of the two as Inter were left to ponder what could have been, had they not let seven minutes on madness put their entire game plan into jeopardy.