MILAN - Adriano scored in added time at the end of the first half as Inter battled hard for a victory over Sampdoria that keeps the Nerazzurri three points clear of Juventus at the top of the Serie A table.
José Mourinho kept faith with Davide Santon at left-back after the 18-year-old's impressive debut against Roma in midweek and made three changes to the team that knocked out the Tim Cup holders, bringing in Julio Cesar for Toldo, Chivu for Burdisso and Mancini for the suspended Ibrahimovic.
Inter attacked their Tim Cup semi-final opponents from the outset and Maicon delivered plenty of crosses from the right, the best chance of the opening period falling to Stankovic who dragged his shot wide.
Sammarco wasted a good chance for the Blucerchiati, sidefooting over the crossbar, but Inter continued to dominate and Adriano went close with a well struck rising drive before Muntari hit the side-netting from Cambiasso's pass.
Adriano scored at the end of a bad-tempered first half in which six players were booked and Mourinho sent off for protesting. In the second minute of added time Maicon powered past Pieri and crossed to the far post where his countryman was on hand to hook into an open net.
It was more Inter than Samp in the second half and Stankovic was unlucky not to score a second, first testing Castellazzi with a crisp low shot from Mancini's cross and then shaving the bar with a splendid swerveshot from distance.
At the end of the ninety the fourth man inexplicably indicated six minutes of added time and in the last of them Dessena's blistering long-range effort forced a fantastic save from Julio Cesar.
Inter 1-0 Sampdoria (HT: 1-0)
Scorer: Adriano 45+2.
Inter: 12 Julio Cesar; 13 Maicon, 26 Chivu (6 Maxwell 84), 25 Samuel (2 Cordoba 46), 39 Santon; 4 Zanetti, 19 Cambiasso, 20 Muntari; 5 Stankovic; 10 Adriano, 33 Mancini (7 Figo 78).
Subs not used: 1 Toldo, 9 Cruz, 18 Crespo, 77 Quaresma.
Coach: José Mourinho.
Sampdoria: 1 Castellazzi; 84 Raggi (3 Ziegler 60), 17 Palombo, 28 Gastaldello (20 Padalino 49); 23 Stankevicius, 88 Dessena, 21 Sammarco, 19 Franceschini (11 Bellucci 64), 46 Pieri; 40 Delvecchio; 10 Pazzini.
Subs not used: 83 Mirante, 25 Mustacchio, 53 Donati, 89 Marilungo.
Coach: Walter Mazzarri.
Referee: Domenico Celi (Campobasso).
Booked: Chivu 10, Stankevicius 16, Sammarco 32, Pazzini 34, Stankovic 40, Franceschini 43.
Sent off: Mourinho 40.