07.03.09 / 20:13
GENOA - Inter brought the club's Centenary celebrations to a close with a 2-0 victory over Genoa, sending the Rossoblu to their first home defeat this season and notching a 10th away win from 14 league games.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored with a delightful touch inside two minutes and Mario Balotelli added the second after half time to keep Inter's Serie A lead intact ahead of Monday's 101st anniversary.
For Saturday's return trip to the Luigi Ferraris, Inter boss José Mourinho reverted to 4-4-2 with Ibrahimovic back in attack alongside Balotelli, and Figo and Materazzi returning to the starting lineup.
Genoa coach Gian Piero Gasperini made one change to the side that drew 0-0 at Siena last weekend, bringing in Sculli for Mesto.
Inter's players, wearing the iconic Centenary shirt for one last time, survived a scare in the opening minute when Thiago Motta wasted a gilt-edged chance from Milito's through ball, but the Nerazzurri hit straight back and took the lead through Ibrahimovic, who lobbed the onrushing Rubinho for his 18th of the season after controlling Stankovic's intuitive ball over the defence.
Mourinho was forced into an early change with less than 16 minutes on the clock, with Ivan Cordoba coming on for Marco Materazzi who hobbled off with a muscular problem in his left leg.
The Colombian barely had time to settle when Thiago Motta forced a splendid save from Julio Cesar with a bullet header from Milito's cross.
The home side continued their pursuit for an equaliser and Sculli headed Criscito's curling cross straight at the Inter keeper before the onset of more injury problems for the Inter defence. Nicolas Burdisso, struggling with a right leg injury, made way for Sulley Muntari, with Cambiasso switching from midfield to defence.
Julio Cesar made two crucial saves in quick succession from Thiago Motta and Milito on the stroke of half time as Inter took their lead into the break, unlucky not to be two goals up after Figo put Ibrahimovic through on goal.
Genoa stepped up the pressure after the break but Julio Cesar showed why he is one of the world's most in-form keepers with a save from Biava and more quick thinking after a one-two between Criscito and Thiago Motta.
Any signs of a Rossoblu comeback took a severe dent in the 61st minute when Ibrahimovic headed Julio Cesar's long goal kick into the path of Balotelli, who took the ball several yards wide before scoring his sixth of the season with a low diagonal shot that Marco Rossi failed to prevent from crossing the line.
Genoa captain Rossi had a quick chance to make amends for his earlier error, poking over the bar after being put through on goal by Thiago Motta. Gasperini's men went close again when substitute Olivera took the ball past Cambiasso and served Biava who rifled wide from close range.
Genoa 0-2 Inter (HT: 0-1)
Scorers: Ibrahimovic 2, Balotelli 61.
Genoa: 83 Rubinho; 25 Biava, 13 Ferrari, 26 Bocchetti (20 Mesto 73); 7 Rossi, 28 Juric, 88 Thiago Motta, 4 Criscito; 14 Sculli (11 Olivera 66), 22 Milito, 17 Jankovic (10 Palladino 56).
Subs not used: 73 Scarpi, 15 Papastathopoulos, 23 Modesto, 77 Milanetto.
Coach: Gian Piero Gasperini.
Inter: 12 Julio Cesar; 13 Maicon, 16 Burdisso (20 Muntari 31), 23 Materazzi (2 Cordoba 16), 39 Santon; 4 Zanetti, 19 Cambiasso, 5 Stankovic; 7 Figo (33 Mancini 72); 8 Ibrahimovic, 45 Balotelli.
Subs not used: 1 Toldo, 10 Adriano, 11 Jimenez, 18 Crespo.
Coach: Jose Mourinho.
Referee: Emidio Morganti (Ascoli Piceno).
Booked: Milito 22, Ibrahimovic 45+2, Thiago Motta 53, Biava 59, Ferrari 72, Balotelli 73, Mancini 84.