Inter were out of sight by half-time as they went on a scoring rampage against Palermo. But the Sicilians did make the last Serie A game of week 10 a memorable one as they fought back hard in the second half, but it was not enough.
Mario Balotelli got things rolling as he won a penalty which Samuel Eto'o converted early on. The Italian then scored a quick-fire double before the former Barcelona man completed a stunning first half display. Fabrizio Miccoli grabbed a double back for the visitors, and substitute Abel Hernandez scored a third, but Palermo's hopes were dashed when Diego Milito came off the bench to make the result safe.
Inter started off well knowing they needed a result from the game following Juventus' 5-1 victory over Sampdoria 24 hours earlier. The Nerazzurri applied the pressure early on and won some corners after Cristian Melinte did well to stop Balotelli's run. However, Eto'o fouled the same Melinte as the ball came in. Palermo broke down the other end. Miccoli fed Edinson Cavani who squared the ball back to Fabio Simplicio. The Brazilian steadied himself, but blasted over the crossbar.
Jose Mourinho's men were given the perfect start courtesy of some shocking defending by Melinte. He brought down Balotelli inside the box with a silly challenge and the referee pointed to the spot. Eto'o stepped up and sent Salvatore Sirigu the wrong way as he confidently slotted home. The Nerazzurri could have had a second minutes later as Sulley Muntari drilled in a low cross, but Giulio Migliaccio was there to take the ball away from Eto'o's feet.
The Sicilians tried to respond. Cavani linked up well with Javier Pastore and fed him on the edge of the box. The trequartista looked up and fired a powerful left foot shot towards Julio Cesar's far post, but it was just over the bar. The Rosanero continued to attack as they began to get into the game. Simplicio did well to test Cesar from long range and the shot-stopper was forced into making a good save at his near post.
Balotelli was relatively active. Jose Mourinho did say he had been training well during his pre-match press conference, but perhaps he needed to sharpen up on his headers. Esteban Cambiasso did extremely well to get down the left flank and cross following some decent link up play with Muntari. The Argentinean crossed in for the hitman, but he appeared to have closed his eyes on heading it from point blank range. The ball ended up wide as a result.
The Rosanero's forward surge always left them open at the back. Maicon's quick ball to Balotelli had Walter Zenga's men struggling. Muntari and Eto'o both raced into the box on the break, but neither were able to stab the ball home following the Italian's cross as the away side escaped. Cambiasso then fouled Miccoli. The striker took the free kick. It curled over the wall and towards the far post, and had Cesar scrambling, but the 'keeper was able to tip it out.
The Nerazzurri appeared home and dry after Balotelli got in on the scoring act. He pounced and headed home 10 minutes before half time from Maicon's well delivered corner. The Italian then grabbed his second from close range following Cambiasso's knock down. Minutes later Inter sent home a stark warning to the rest of Serie A. Balotelli turned provider this time as he fed Eto'o for his second of the game. The Cameroon international smashed an unstoppable effort into the back of the net.
Palermo came out better for the second half and Miccoli grabbed his first ever goal against Inter. He did well to shrug Ivan Cordoba off the ball before chipping it over Cesar. The Rosanero grew in stature after the goal, but it was always going to be hard to get something from the game.
However, the Sicilians were determined, and Abel Hernandez cut the deficit as he tapped in from close range following Mattia Cassani's low cross. Cassani then turned provider again for Miccoli who lost Santon then and fired home with a razor sharp shot across Cesar to ensure there was an exciting climax to the game.
Diego Milito then marked his return from injury with a smart finish from Maicon's cross as the Nerazzurri underlined their intent for the Scudetto race.
Salvatore Landolina, Goal.com
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