New Delhi: Two late goals by Zlatan Ibrahimovic saw Inter defeat Chievo 4-2 at the San Siro, thus enabling the Nerazzurri to open up a nine point lead at the top of Serie A.
Team News & Build-Up
With Juventus and Milan battling out in the big game later in the night, Inter went into their afternoon clash with Chievo knowing that a victory would see them move nine points clear over both of their Scudetto rivals.
The Nerazzurri were without Rivas, Vieira, Cruz, Materazzi, Adriano, and Toldo, but the only slight surprise in Jose Mourinho's line-up was the decision to field Victor Obinna in attack alongside Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Rock-bottom Chievo were really starting to struggle, having lost eight of their last nine Serie A matches. The Flying Donkeys were minus the services of the injured Bogdani, Iunco, and Kerlon, as well as the suspended Pinzi and Mandelli. Sergio Pellissier started as the lone frontman.
It took less than three minutes for Inter to take the lead. Nicolas Frey committed suicide by trying to play the offside track, allowing Dejan Stankovic to thread the ball through to Maxwell, who cut inside the Frenchman, and lash the ball into the roof of the net.
Stankovic started brightly, and he called for a penalty when his cross involuntarily struck the arm of Santiago Morero, but the referee waved away the appeals.
On 15 minutes Javier Zanetti charged forward and crashed a fearsome shot wide, while a few minutes later Sulley Muntari had a similar effort, as Inter dominated the possession.
On 26 minutes, it would have been 2-0 were it not for an absolute wonder save from Chievo goalkeeper Stefano Sorrentino. Maicon crossed from the right to Stankovic at the back post, but Sorrentino performed a miracle to push away his powerful header.
Ibrahimovic had been very quiet, but he woke up just after the half hour mark, with a rocket of a shot from 30 yards that fizzed just wide.
Obinna cut inside from the left and tested Sorrentino, while it took until towards the end of the half until Chievo had their first efforts on goal, as Julio Cesar comfortably saved from Simone Bentivoglio before Michele Marcolini lashed the ball well over.
Just like Inter had caught Chievo cold at the beginning of the first half, they did the same at the start of the second. Within 90 seconds of the restart Ibrahimovic laid Maicon's cross into the path of Stankovic, and the Serb smashed the ball into the bottom corner from the edge of the area.
The game seemed as good as over at this point, but just minutes later Chievo re-opened the tie. Pellissier picked up the ball at least 25 yards out, and fired low into the corner past the stretching Julio Cesar.
Chievo now had more belief, and Luciano skipped past Muntari and crossed for Pellissier, who was denied on the turn by a fine Ivan Cordoba challenge.
An equaliser was on the cards, and it arrived on 65 minutes. Marcolini slipped through Mantovani, who fired the ball across the six yard box for Bentivoglio to turn the ball home.
Mourinho introduced another striker in Hernan Crespo, along with earlier subsitute Mario Balotelli, and Inter reacted, with the latter denied by Sorrentino at the back post. Luis Figo then replaced Maxwell with 20 minutes remaining.
Figo immediately got involved, nodding Balotelli's cross to Crespo, who acrobatically executed a bicycle kick over the bar.
Inter appeared to be getting back on top, but they could have fallen behind on 74 minutes, as Bentivoglio fed substitute Mauro Esposito, who rolled Walter Samuel but couldn't find enough power to beat Julio Cesar.
Cambiasso headed straight at Sorrentino, but with 11 minutes remaining Inter did go back ahead. Figo supplied the over-lapping Maicon, whose cross was headed home by Ibrahimovic at the back post.
It got worse for Chievo soon after as Morero saw red for a foul on Zanetti. Crespo volleyed over as Inter looked for a fourth goal. This goal duly arrived with two minutes remaining as Ibrahimovic smashed home Stankovic's cut-back into the top corner.
Inter overcame a scare, but they are now nine points clear at the top of the table, as Italy awaits the big match between nearest rivals Juventus and Milan.
Inter: Julio Cesar, Maicon, Cordoba, Samuel, Maxwell, (Figo 70) Zanetti, Cambiasso, Muntari (Crespo 66), Stankovic, Obinna (Balotelli 64), Ibrahimovic
Chievo: Sorrentino, Frey, Morero, Yepes, Mantovani, Luciano (Anastasi 86), Bentivoglio, Marcolini, Langella (Esposito 58), Italiano, Pellissier
Maxwell 3 (I)
Stankovic 47 (I)
Pellissier 50 (C)
Bentivoglio 65 (C)
Ibrahimovic 79 (I)
Ibrahimovic 88 (I)
Morero 82 (C)