07.02.10 / 17:17
MILAN - Cagliari brought some Sardinian sunshine to Milan but Inter provided the style as José Mourinho's men outclassed the Rossoblu at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza.
The comfortable 3-0 victory sees the Nerazzurri open up a double-figure lead at the top of the table as second-placed AC Milan were held to a 0-0 draw in Bologna.
Goran Pandev and Walter Samuel gave Inter a dream start to leave Cagliari with an uphill task after just 20 minutes. Diego Milito made the result safe just after the restart to make it nine home wins on the trot for the defending champions.
True to his admission in the pre-match press conference José Mourinho renounced playing a diamond and fielded three strikers with Eto'o returning to the starting lineup for the first time since his return from Africa Cup of Nations duty.
With Sneijder out suspended and Stankovic still not fit, the Portuguese went for a midfield line of Zanetti, Cambiasso and Thiago Motta. Cordoba and Samuel were recalled in defence with Lucio sitting out the Week 23 clash through suspension.
Mourinho's tactics were bang on and Pandev celebrated an extraordinary start to the game in the sixth minute with his second home goal for Inter after his derby winner a fortnight ago.
Zanetti went on a marauding run down the right and cut inside before pulling back to Eto'o, who saw his shot rebound off Canini after Dessena's block. Pandev leapt onto the loose ball and slotted past Agazzi from close range.
Cagliari went close to a quick reply when Jeda forced a one-handed tipped save from Julio Cesar, but Inter were soon two goals up when Samuel rose on the edge of the six-yard box to catch Canini by surprise and head Maicon's right-wing corner past the despairing dive of Agazzi.
The visitors thought they were back in the game when Matri fired home after a pass from Lazzari, only for the offside flag to go up. Minutes later Nenè was left scratching his head wondering how Julio Cesar managed to keep out his terrific volley on the turn.
Our three musketeers combined to devastating effect right after half time to kill off the game. Pandev combined with Eto'o and rolled the return pass into the path of Milito who took two quick touches before slotting past Agazzi for his 16th goal of the campaign and 14th in Serie A.
With the points in the bag Mourinho brought on Muntari for Eto'o and went from 4-3-3- to 4-4-2. Mariga replaced Thiago Motta for his Serie A debut in black and blue with fifteen minutes remaining, while Balotelli came on in the closing stages for Milito who strolled off to a deserved standing ovation.
Inter 3-0 Cagliari (HT: 2-0)
Scorers: Pandev 6, Samuel 20, Milito 47.
Inter: 12 Julio Cesar; 13 Maicon, 2 Cordoba, 25 Samuel, 39 Santon; 4 Zanetti, 19 Cambiasso, 8 Thiago Motta (17 Mariga 75); 27 Pandev, 22 Milito (45 Balotelli 84), 9 Eto'o (11 Muntari 60).
Subs not used: 1 Toldo, 7 Quaresma, 15 Krhin, 23 Materazzi.
Coach: José Mourinho.
Cagliari: 25 Agazzi; 4 Dessena, 13 Astori, 21 Canini, 31 Agostini; 8 Biondini (20 Barone 56), 5 Conti, 10 Lazzari; 27 Jeda (28 Nainggolan 83); 32 Matri, 9 Nenè (23 Larrivey 60).
Subs not used: 12 Vigorito, 3 Ariaudo, 15 Marzoratti, 18 Parola.
Coach: Massimiliano Allegri.
Referee: Andrea Gervasoni (Mantua).
Booked: Thiago Motta 64, Milito 81.