ROME - Inter Milan threw away the lead
to lose 3-1 at lowly Catania on Friday and blow open the Serie A
title race in almost comical fashion.
The leaders, who visit Chelsea in their Champions League
last-16 second leg on Tuesday with a 2-1 advantage, could see
their domestic lead slashed to a point if second-placed AC Milan
beat visiting Chievo on Sunday.
Inter's Ghanaian substitute Sulley Muntari had only been on
the pitch a minute when he committed a foul. He then handled
Giuseppe Mascara's resultant free-kick to concede a penalty and
was also sent off for a second yellow card.
Mascara converted the spot-kick nine minutes from time with
a cheeky, dinked finish to put the hosts 2-1 up and Jorge
Martinez added a third in the 90th minute.
"Inter are the strongest team in the championship but
tonight we have shown that when we play with grit and
determination we can beat anybody," Uruguayan forward Martinez
told Sky TV.
Inter, who have won just once in six league games having
appeared to be cruising to a fifth straight scudetto, went ahead
early in the second half through Diego Milito but fellow
Argentine forward Maxi Lopez equalised on 74 minutes.
"Until we took the lead we controlled the game then we paid
for a lack of concentration," said Inter technical director
"We knew Catania were enjoying a good moment of form. We
weren't thinking about Chelsea, that will be another game."
The win was sweet revenge for tough-talking Catania coach
Sinisa Mihajlovic, a former Inter assistant coach who has
repeatedly clashed verbally with outspoken Inter boss Jose
Mourinho over the last two seasons.
Mourinho was serving the final part of a three-match
touchline ban but looked to have produced a masterstroke at
halftime following an even first period.
He introduced winger Ricardo Quaresma, who troubled the home
defence, and Milito was soon on the scoresheet after the
consistently impressive Wesley Sneijder and Samuel Eto'o had
combined to set up his 16th league goal of the campaign.
However, just when the close-season buy from Genoa looked to
have sealed yet another Inter win, sixth-from-bottom Catania
stormed back to inflict the third league defeat of the season on
the champions with 10 games left.
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