28.01.09 / 22:41
CATANIA - Ten-man Inter performed magnificently to hold off a spirited challenge from Catania and come away from the Stadio Massimino with a 2-0 victory.
Dejan Stankovic headed home an early goal but Sulley Muntari was sent off just past the half hour, sparking a strong reaction from Walter Zenga's side.
But the Nerazzurri weathered the storm and the Serbian midfielder turned provider midway through the second half, setting up Zlatan Ibrahimovic for a brilliant second.
Cordoba and Burdisso came in for injured pair Chivu and Samuel at the centre of defence for the last midweek round of the season while Santon made his third consecutive start at left-back.
Julio Cruz returned to the starting lineup after a four-match absence, partnering Zlatan Ibrahimovic who missed Sunday's win over Sampdoria through suspension.
Inter make the perfect start in Sicily with Dejan Stankovic getting in behind Silvestre and heading past the despairing dive of Bizzarri after an inch-perfect cross from Cruz.
Catania thought they were back in the game eight minutes later when Paolucci slotted home from close range, only for referee Gianluca Rocchi to blow for a foul by Morimoto on Burdisso.
The Nerazzurri's early domination continued and Ibrahimovic narrowly missed out on a second when he shaved the crossbar with an angled shot.
Sulley Muntari was harshly sent off on 32 minutes after fouling Tedesco in the centre circle and the home side poured forward in search of an equaliser, Mascara, Paolucci and Morimoto all producing chances before half time.
Mascara went even closer after the restart with a long-range shot that took a deflection off Burdisso and bounced off the post with Julio Cesar stranded.
Inter soaked up the pressure and silenced a deafening home crowd on 71 minutes when Ibrahimovic raced on to Stankovic's lofted pass, lifted the ball over Bizzarri and slotted into an open goal for his seventeenth of the season.
Second-half substitute Maxwell missed a glorious chance for Inter's third in the closing stages and Catania, playing for pride, almost reduced the arrears with five minutes to go when Baiocco forced Julio Cesar into a tipped save.
Catania 0-2 Inter (HT: 0-1)
Scorers: Stankovic 5, Ibrahimovic 71.
Catania: 1 Bizzarri; 21 Silvestri, 4 Silvestre, 6 Stovini, 33 Capuano (11 Llama 72) ; 25 Martinez (18 D'Amico 87), 17 Baiocco, 19 Tedesco; 15 Morimoto, 9 Paolucci (24 Spinesi 76), 7 Mascara.
Subs not used: 20 Acerbis, 2 Sardo, 3 Sabato, 8 Ledesma.
Coach: Walter Zenga.
Inter: 12 Julio Cesar; 13 Maicon, 2 Cordoba, 16 Burdisso, 39 Santon (24 Rivas 88); 4 Zanetti, 19 Cambiasso, 20 Muntari; 5 Stankovic (7 Figo 90+1); 9 Ibrahimovic, 8 Cruz (6 Maxwell 64).
Subs not used: 1 Toldo, 18 Crespo, 33 Mancini, 77 Quaresma.
Coach: Giuseppe Baresi (in place of disqualified José Mourinho).
Referee: Gianluca Rocchi (Florence).
Booked: Mascara 13, Ibrahimovic 15, Tedesco 60, D'Amico 89.
Sent off: Muntari 32.