Serie A - Inter edge Genoa in nine goal thriller
Internazionale held off Genoa at the San Siro to win 5-4 in a thrilling encounter that saw two red cards, six yellow cards, a Diego Milito hat-trick and incident aplenty.
In what was Andrea Stramaccioni's first game as Inter coach, two Milito goals and one from Walter Samuel looked to have put the home side on their way as they went in 3-1 up at the break, but Emiliano Moretti was on target on the stroke of half time for the visitors.
A breathless second half saw Genoa almost snatch a remarkable draw as Inter keeper Julio Cesar and Genoa midfielder Fernando Belluschi both saw red for their parts in conceding penalties, with Mauro Zarate and Milito's third bringing up five for Inter; Rodrigo Palacio and an Alberto Gilardino double - all from the spot - saw Genoa push the Nerazzuri close.
It did not take long for Inter's early dominance in possession to tell, Diego Forlan engineering space to whip in a cross for Milito to head home completely unmarked from yards out.
Esteban Cambiasso could have made it two moments later but his header was well saved by Sebastien Frey and Milito blasted his follow up well over. Milito did have his second shortly after, latching onto a long ball to calmly slot past Frey.
Ten minutes later, Inter looked to have the game won before the break. Lucio crossed for Samuel and the big defender bundled the ball over the line with the Genoa defence at sixes and sevens.
Genoa's chances were few and far between, Cambiasso doing well to clear a Giuseppe Sculli header off the line. But the visitors gave themselves a lifeline with the last play of the half, Sculli's acrobatic bicycle kick deflecting off Moretti and past Julio Cesar after Gilardino saw his initial shot blocked off the line.
If the first half was dramatic, the second was breathless as both sides went on the attack. Genoa cut the deficit to one as Javier Zanetti was adjudged to have handled Sculli's header back across the face of goal. It was a needless intervention from the skipper and Palacio duly dispatched the penalty down the middle. Cambiasso and Forlan both squandered excellent chances in front of goal before Zarate restored Inter's two goal cushion with a sublime curling finish into the far corner from the edge of the box.
With Inter on the hunt for a killer fifth, Genoa hit them on the break. Palacio rounded Cesar before being upended by the keeper. It gave referee Mauro Marani no option but to brandish the red card and substitute keeper Luca Castellazzi was unable to stop Gilardino's penalty. Less than three minutes later and it was Inter's turn to have a penalty of their own. Joel Obi, on for Forlan, was tackled from behind by Belluschi. The upshot was another red card and Milito slotted away the penalty to complete his hat-trick.
There was time for yet one more moment of drama in an astonishing game as Sculli looked to have fouled Zanetti with his studs up as he forged his way into the box before tumbling over. The referee saw it the other way and pointed to the spot. Gilardino made no mistake to set up a grandstand final two minutes but Inter held on to leapfrog Catania in the table.
Elsewhere, Fiorentina's recent slump dragged on as they lost 2-1 at home to Chievo, leaving them in 17th, one spot above the drop zone.
Udinese's hopes of securing Champions League football suffered a further setback as they lost 1-0 to Siena at Stadio Artemio.
Lecce, in 18th, could not capitalise and played out a drab 0-0 draw with bottom side Cesena to remain five points away from safety.
Midtable Bologna lost 3-1 at home to Palermo, while Cagliari comfortably dealt with Atalanta, winning 2-0 with goals from Daniele Conti and Mauricio Pinilla.