A blazing second-half performance saw Inter Milan come back from a goal down to crush Genoa 5-2 at the San Siro and stay five points behind Serie A leaders AC Milan on a Sunday when Lazio beat Palermo to move within two points of goalless Napoli.
A brace from the brilliant Samuel Eto’o and one goal each from Giampaolo Pazzini, Goran Pandev and Yuto Nagatomo - all in the second half, cancelled out Rodrigo Palacio’s 40th-minute opener for Genoa before the visitors scored a last-minute consolation through Mauro Boselli.
Inter coach Leonardo, who had witnessed Milan’s 1-0 win at Juventus on Saturday night, was beaming at the final whistle.
“It was not easy against their five defenders but after Pazzini’s goal it all opened up and it was a joy to watch”, said the former Milan coach before turning his attention towards the potentially scudetto-deciding Milan derby in early April.
“The derby is always the derby - it’s a one off. It will be spectacular in every sense but there are 10 games”.
Meanwhile, third-placed Napoli’s own title challenge appears to have run out of steam after the Azzurri were held to a goalless draw by lowly Brescia. In a tense affair at the San Paolo, coach Walter Mazzarri was sent from the dugout in the first half for protesting as Napoli, impotent without Ezequiel Lavezzi, fell eight points behind Milan.
In Rome, an early double from Giuseppe Sculli saw Lazio defeat a nervous Palermo 2-0.
After the seven they conceded against Udinese that did for coach Delio Rossi, Palermo remained unbreached for just seven minutes in Serse Cosmi’s first game in charge. A beautifully measured pass by Cristian Ledesma sent Sculli clean through and the former Genoa striker finished calmly for his first Lazio goal.
Ten minutes later and the two combined again with Ledesma lifting a perfect pass for Sculli to head home. Palermo’s Javier Pastore had a header saved and Lazio’s Hernandes a shot parried soon after but at 2-0 both sides seemed content, for different reasons, to defend in numbers with the rest of the game played at a low tempo.
“We got the goals and used out heads to close the game out - they didn’t cause us too many problems”, said Lazio skipper Ledesma, looking forward to next weekend’s derby against Roma. “It doesn’t matter where we are in the league for that particular game. It goes beyond a league match”.
Antonio Di Natale’s second-half penalty, his 22nd goal of the campaign, gave fifth-placed Udinese a 1-0 win at home to rock-bottom Bari.
“Today we won the most difficult game of the season,” said coach Francesco Guidolin, whose free-scoring Udinese side had lost their opening four fixtures. “Bari didn’t give up, but I have 25 sons who I’m very pleased with right now”.
Eto’o was in the thick of things from the start in Milan. After the Cameroonian had tested Eduardo on 20 and 35 minutes, Genoa took the lead through Palacio’s rasping cross-shot.
But in a very different second period, Pazzini side-footed home Maicon’s cross to equalise on 50min before Eto’o gave Inter the lead a minute later after Eduardo had fumbled Pandev’s shot.
Six minutes on and Eto’o struck a brilliant 18th goal of the season. Pandev made it 4-1 on 68min with only his second goal of the season and Japanese defender Nagatomo scored a fifth on 82min with his first Inter goal before Boselli’s late header made the final score 5-2.
Elsewhere, Adrian Mutu struck a first-half brace to help mid-table Fiorentina to a 3-0 home win over Catania, while Marco Di Vaio scored his 18th goal of the season in Bologna’s 2-2 home draw with ninth-placed Cagliari.
Earlier on Sunday, two goals from Emanuele Giaccherini helped Cesena to a 3-2 win at struggling Sampdoria and stay above the drop zone, while sixth-placed Roma won 2-1 at Lecce on Friday.