22.03.09 / 17:08
MILAN - Inter remain seven points clear at the top of the table with nine matches of the season remaining after a comfortable victory over Serie A strugglers Reggina.
Esteban Cambiasso and Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored early goals at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, and the Swede added a magnificent second-half effort to leave the Nerazzurri requiring 20 points to wrap up a 17th league title.
Beset by injury problems and with Samuel out suspended, Mourinho made three changes to the team that beat Fiorentina last weekend, naming Cambiasso and Rivas at the centre of defence and handing Mancini a place alongside Ibrahimovic and Balotelli in a three-pronged attack.
Javier Zanetti, making his 635th appearance to become Inter's second most present player of all time, propped up a three-man midfield with Muntari and Stankovic.
Reggina were without top scorer Corradi but Orlandi's team were boosted by the return of Santos in defence and Barreto in midfield.
Inter made a dream start against the Amaranto. With less than six minutes on the clock Balotelli crossed for Stankovic who backheeled into the path of the onrushing Cambiasso who lifted over Puggioni for his third goal of the season.
Four minutes later, Ibrahimovic bettered his record of 17 goals in one Serie A season with his first penalty of the campaign, tucking under Puggioni after Mazzoleni pointed to the spot after a Valdez foul on Mancini.
Zlatan was denied a second by the woodwork on 18 minutes when his first-time shot hit the inside of the post and flew across the goalline on its way out for a goal kick, and in the 37th when Puggioni kept out his angled drive from the left channel.
Reggina's best chance of the first half came three minutes before break after Obinna replaced the injured Mancini, but Barillà, through on goal with just Julio Cesar to beat, was brilliantly denied by the Inter keeper.
After a sluggish start to the second period Ibrahimovic brought the game to life and killed it off with a wonder goal. After gliding past three opponents, the Swede spotted Puggioni off his line and lobbed the Reggina keeper with an inch-perfect finish to join Di Vaio on top of the top scorers list.
Playing for honour, Orlandi's men never stopped fighting but there was no way past Julio Cesar who made difficult saves from Barreto and Lanzaro.
Mourinho threw on Luis Jimenez for Dejan Stankovic for the last twenty-five minutes but the Chilean's game lasted for just sixteen after he pulled up injured.
Inter had plenty of chances for a fourth, with Ibrahimovic Balotelli, Obinna and Muntari all going close in the final stages.
Inter 3-0 Reggina (HT: 2-0)
Scorers: Cambiasso 6, Ibrahimovic (pen) 10, 58.
Inter: 12 Julio Cesar; 13 Maicon, 24 Rivas, 19 Cambiasso, 39 Santon; 4 Zanetti, 5 Stankovic (11 Jimenez 62, 6 Maxwell 78), 20 Muntari; 45 Balotelli; 8 Ibrahimovic, 33 Mancini (21 Obinna 41).
Subs not used: 1 Toldo, 9 Cruz, 14 Vieira, 18 Crespo.
Coach: José Mourinho.
Reggina: 1 Puggioni; 55 Lanzaro, 16 Valdez, 33 Santos; 40 Adejo (19 Krajicik 77), 8 Barreto, 35 Carmona, 17 Barillà (77 Sestu 67), 3 Costa; 10 Cozza (11 Ceravolo 74); 81 Brienza.
Subs not used: 26 Marino, 4 Cascione, 86 Stuani, 88 Di Gennaro.
Coach: Nevio Orlandi.
Referee: Paolo Mazzoleni (Bergamo).
Booked: Valdez 10, Barillà 26, Santon 51, Carmona 68.