Serie A - Pazzini late show lifts Inter
Substitute Giampaolo Pazzini scored twice in stoppage time as Inter downed Cesena 2-1 to keep their faint hopes of the Serie A title alive.
Igor Budan gave the hosts the lead when he side-footed home from Luca Ceccarelli’s cross on 56 minutes, but in the second minute of stoppage time Pazzini connected with a superb flick to draw the Nerazzurri level.
With arch-rivals Milan eight points clear, Inter boss Leonardo knew his side could not afford to slip up against lowly Cesena, themselves not safe from relegation.
But it was the hosts who came closest to breaking the deadlock when Budan headed wide from Luis Jimenez’s corner after two minutes.
Samuel Eto’o then had a sight of goal as he raced on to a long ball but Antonioli again thwarted Inter.
As the half came to a close, Nagatomo almost put Milito through on goal only for the offside flag to bring him to a halt and there was still time for Lucio to try an audacious dipping shot which the grateful Antonioli clutched to his chest to keep the teams deadlocked at the break.
It was the hosts who came out for the second half in bullish mood. Jimenez volleyed wide four minutes after the restart before heading over minutes later, and Inter were behind on 56 minutes.
Ceccarelli drove down the Inter right and his perfect cross was met by the unmarked Budan who side-footed home from close range.
Inter boss Leonardo made two changes in quick succession as he looked to salvage something from the match. The first was forced on him as Ceccarelli’s tackle ended Goran Pandev’s day, bringing Pazzini into the fray while McDonald Mariga replaced Motta.
Pazzini was soon into the action as he looked to get on the end of Maicon’s cross only for Steve von Bergen to get the decisive defending touch then Lucio headed narrowly wide from Cambiasso’s free-kick.
As Inter became more desperate, Andrea Ranocchia fell in the box under Pellegrino’s attentions and Pazzini again went close from another teasing Maicon delivery.
Mariga almost found Milito with a great through ball only to be denied by the stretching Fabio Caserta and as the Cesena defence creaked under the pressure, Pazzini again headed wide from an excellent position.
Cesena sub Dominique Malonga almost added a second after fooling Ranocchia, but was unable to beat the onrushing Castellazzi and the keeper’s contribution proved to be the turning point.
With time running out, the largely anonymous Eto’o crossed into the box and Pazzini netted with a deft flick two minutes into five added on.
And just when it looked like both teams would have to settle for a point, Maicon again turned lethal supplier and Pazzini made no mistake with a header that proved to be the last touch of the match.