New Delhi: The champions of Italy just got over the line against a determined Bergamaschi outfit, to send off Figo in the best possible fashion.
Pre-Match And Team News
Inter won their fourth successive Scudetto a couple of weeks ago, following Milan’s failure to pick up any points on their travels to Udinese. They celebrated the occasion by smashing three past a hapless Siena side 24 hours later, only to suffer a disappointing 2-1 loss at the hands of Cagliari last weekend.
The Nerazzurri were keen to turn this form around, as they looked to end the season off on a high, in what was set to be Luis Figo’s last ever match for the club against Atalanta. His side were unfortunately without the injured Maxwell and Nelson Rivas yet again, as well as Marco Materazzi, who was ruled out only hours prior to kick-off. Meanwhile, their opponents had a quartet of players missing through injury, as Ferreira Pinto, Diego De Ascentis, Jaime Valdes, and the Genoa-bound Sergio Floccari all watched from the sidelines.
The visitors got the play underway at the San Siro stadium, and despite having little to play for, they pressed forward with real purpose in the opening minute. It didn’t take the home side long to find their feet though, as they enjoyed the lions share of possession in the first five minutes, looking extremely threatening when in attack.
It took Inter just six minutes to open the scoring, as Muntari broke the deadlock with a straightforward strike from close range. Zanetti’s wide pass to Figo, led to the Portuguese veteran skipping past two opponents and then delivering a dangerous ball into the area. A fumble by the keeper Consigli resulted in the ball falling to the feet of Muntari, who made no mistake with a right footed effort.
The Nerazzurri were in full control, however completely against the run of play, the visitors immediately struck back through Doni, who levelled proceedings after 10 minutes of play. An inch perfect cross from a corner taken by Guarente, picked out an unmarked Doni, who easily guided his header past Julio Cesar to make it 1-1.
There is a reason why Jose Mourinho’s men are the champions, and they proved it just two minutes later, when Ibrahimovic gave his side the lead once again. A long ball forward by Cambiasso fell into the path of an on-side Ibra, who took a touch, and then buried a powerful effort into the bottom corner, giving Consigli no chance whatsoever.
Both sides had glorious opportunities to add to their respective tallies over the next ten minute period, as firstly Ibra squandered a massive chance for the champions, after some great play by Balotelli. Moments following this, Garics picked out an unmarked Plasmati in the area, however the forward’s header was high and wide of the target.
Astonishingly the fourth goal of the match was scored on 25 minutes, as Cigarini levelled proceedings once again. After some havoc on the edge of the area, the ball spilled loose, allowing the midfielder to take full advantage of it, and smash a wild drive into the top right corner to make it 2-2.
Inter should have reclaimed the lead on 31 or 33 minutes respectively, as Figo was firstly denied a one on one opportunity with Consigli, following an incorrect offside decision by the linesman. Moments later, Ibrahimovic could have secured his Capocannoniere award, had he not hit his volley from inside the six yard box onto the roof of the stadium.
The tempo of the match completely dropped off in the final ten minutes, however there was one moment of significance in this period, as Luis Figo came from the field, bringing an end to his glittering career with the club. Santon was brought on in his place to see out the remaining minute of play, however his presence would not be enough to alter the score line, as the two sides left the field deadlocked at 2-2.
Prior to the commencement of the second half, the Atalanta coach Luigi Delneri made his first change of the match, and it was surprisingly a change in goal, as Consigli made way for Coppola. The substitute was immediately called into action, as he was forced to keep out a number of efforts from the dominant Ibrahimovic, who looked keen to add to his tally in the contest.
Incredibly on 55 minutes, Doni grabbed his second goal of the afternoon to give his side the lead. A free kick around 25 yards from goal was awarded to the visitors, following a tough challenge on Plasmati by Samuel. Doni stepped up to take the free kick, and he made it look easy, as his stunning effort impressively curled into the top corner.
The champions were stunned, and it was evident, as they struggled to impose themselves and re-establish their dominance of the first half. Out of nothing though, Muntari found the back of the net with a spectacular overhead kick on the hour mark, one that was immediately ruled out for offside though, meaning that the visitors maintained their slender advantage.
Atalanta should have had a fourth just moments later, after Padoin committed what will go down as one of the misses of the season. Doni’s perfect cross into the area, picked out Padoin at the back post, however he somehow sent his tap in wide of the target. The midfielder was keen to make amends just three minutes later, when he saw a long range effort crash into the crossbar, denying him another opportunity to get his name onto the scoresheet.
Mourinho immediately acted by making a double substitution, as Maicon and Crespo entered the field of play, in the place of Chivu and Stankovic respectively. The pair almost combined for what would have been the equalising goal on 68 minutes, as the Brazilian’s cross met the head of the Argentine hitman, however his header was also denied by the woodwork, adding further drama to an already dramatic encounter.
Inter had a second goal ruled out in the space of 15 minutes, when Crespo was adjudged to be in an offside position with just over a quarter of an hour remaining. A free kick by Balotelli was met by the head of Ibrahimovic, who flicked the ball to Crespo, allowing the Argentinean to direct the ball towards the goal. Coppola was beaten, however the linesman harshly decided that he was in an offside position, meaning that the goal did not stand.
All of the Nerazzurri’s hard work paid off on 78 minutes though, when Cambiasso finally grabbed a well deserved goal for his side, one that came about from their 14th corner of the match. The corner fell to the feet of Muntari, who tested his luck from close range to no avail. His Argentinean team mate Cambiasso pounced on to the lose ball however, to stab it home from inside the area.
Unbelievably, Inter made it 4-3 just three minutes later, as a moment of brilliance by Ibrahimovic allowed his side to reclaim the lead. In the process, the Swedish superstar regained his spot atop of the Capocannoniere standings, adding to the significance of the goal. The hitman clearly wanted this one, as he was determined to win a challenge against Talamonti, and after doing so, he coolly back heeled the ball into the back of the net, with a contender for the goal of the season.
The visitors gave their all in the final minutes of play, and despite the fact that they looked threatening at times in the closing stages, it was too little too late, as the Nerazzurri ran away with an incredible victory, confirming their spot atop of the table. Inter are the champions, and they have done so in emphatic fashion, by seeing off their nearest opponents Juventus and Milan by a comfortable ten point margin.
Inter (4-3-3): Julio Cesar; Zanetti, Cordoba, Samuel, Chivu (Maicon, 64’); Stankovic (Crespo, 64’), Cambiasso, Muntari; Figo (Santon, 44’), Ibrahimovic, Balotelli.
Atalanta (4-4-1-1): Consigli (Coppola, 46’); Garics, Talamonti, Manfredini, Bellini; Defendi, Cigarini, Guarente, Padoin; Doni; Plasmati.
6’ Muntari (Inter)
10’ Doni (Atalanta)
12’ Ibrahimovic (Inter)
25’ Cigarini (Atalanta)
55’ Doni (Atalanta)
78’ Cambiasso (Inter)
81’ Ibrahimovic (Inter)
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