Serie A - Inter grind out hardfought victory

Sun, 27 Feb 21:52:00 2011

Internazionale closed the gap on Serie A league leaders AC Milan to just two points after toiling to a 2-0 win against Sampdoria at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris.

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Wesley Sneijder's expertly executed free kick in the 73rd minute broke the extended deadlock before Samuel Eto'o put the gloss on a difficult night for Inter with a late strike deep into injury time.

Inter undoubtedly enjoyed much of the possession but struggled to create anything like a bright spark in front of goal and Sampdoria have a right to be disappointed having come away from the game empty handed.

The victory for Leonardo's men, their tenth in twelve games, puts huge pressure on Milan who have the opportunity to restore their five point cushion at the summit when they take on Napoli, who have title ambitions of their own, on Monday night.

Sampdoria certainly started the brighter side and the warning signs were out early that Inter may have a tough test on their hands.

Inter soon found their feet however and were dominant in possession throughout an untidy first 45 minutes of play.

The tireless Yuto Nagamoto and the wandering Houssine Kharja provided the greatest threat from wide positions as Sampdoria's attacking wing backs were repeatedly forced into reverse gear.

But for all their dominance, Inter never forced Sampdoria goalkeeper Gianluca Curci into a noteworthy save and could consider themselves lucky to be on level terms at the half time whistle.

Lucky escape part one for the defending Serie A champions came when Massimo Maccarone had the misfortune of blocking a goal bound headed effort from a team-mate before Inter eventually scrambled the loose ball clear.

Andrea Ranocchia was the star for Inter in part two of the great escape as he drifted into the right place at just the right time to produce a vital last ditch block to deny Reto Ziegler from point blank range.

And they had the woodwork to thank as the trilogy was completed when Andrea Poli burst into the penalty area and struck a low shot, past Julio Cesar, against the post.

Eto'o could have snatched the lead on the brink of half time but his tame effort from 18 yards only drew Curci into a routine save.

After blundering his way through the first half, Maccarone was presented with a great chance to break the deadlock as he latched on to a long ball over the Inter backline but his finish was unconvincing allowing Julio Cesar to make the save.

On his first return to Sampdoria since leaving for Inter in January, Giampaolo Pazzini endured a torrid time of it and was largely absent before being withdrawn in the latter stages.

On such a scrappy occasion as this was, just a single moment of magic was always likely to hold major significance and that moment came courtesy of Sneijder's wand of a right foot.

Presented with a set piece 25 yards of goal, the Dutchman effortlessly curled the ball over the wall and into the corner left vacant by Curci.

A second free kick just minutes later almost produced a second goal for Sneijder and Inter as he very nearly caught Curci, who was expecting a cross, on his toes with a whipped ball that rattled against the post.

As the minutes ticked into injury time and Sampdoria throwing all but the proverbial sink, Eto'o sealed the points with a clinical finish that was the product of a swift counter attack.

Thomas Hyde / Eurosport

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