Crespo, Balotelli (2), Solari put Nerazzurri in firm control ahead of return leg

REGGIO CALABRIA - Inter's road to a fourth consecutive Tim Cup final began with a 4-1 victory over Reggina at the Stadio Granillo.

Hernan Crespo opened the scoring early on, with Mario Balotelli adding a second on the half hour.

Leonardo Pettinari halved Inter's lead shortly after half time, but Santiago Solari capped a fine performance to restore the two-goal advantage.

Balotelli completed the rout in the closing stages with his second of the game to make it a full debut to remember.

Roberto Mancini fielded a mixture of experience and youth in Reggio Calabria, handing starting debuts to Inter Primavera pair Fatic and Balotelli in a 4-4-2 formation that included Rivas and Pelé, and bringing on Puccio, Maaroufi and Napoli in the second half.

Inter were a goal to the good after 14 minutes, Hernan Crespo stealing in to head home Solari's perfectly executed right-wing corner.

Samuel, Solari and Pelé had chances from distance as the Nerazzurri imposed their superiority.

Primavera superstar Balotelli doubled the lead on 30 minutes, pouncing on the loose ball to tuck home Inter's 50th goal of the season after Novakovic parried Samuel's header from Solari's cross.

Paolo Orlandoni produced a reflex save from Pettinari as the hosts looked for a way back, but it was Inter who went closer before the break.

Crespo fired narrowly over from Cesar's left-wing centre, and Pelé tested Novakovic with a sweetly struck volley from a tight angle.

Reggina reduced the arrears five minutes after the restart when Pettinari found the net after Orlandoni failed to hold Montiel's long-range effort.

The Amaranto's optimism was short-lived as Solari converted a right-wing cross from his compatriot Burdisso to restore Inter's two-goal advantage.

Balotelli added insult to injury four minutes from time, capitalising on a defensive lapse and rounding Novakovic before sliding home.

Reggina 1-4 Inter (HT: 0-2)

Scorers: Crespo 14, Balotelli 30, 86, Pettinari 50, Solari 62.

Reggina (3-4-1-2): 22 Novakovic; 13 Stadsgaard (28 Camilleri 46), 55 Lanzaro, 3 Cherubin; 20 Alvarez, 4 Cascione, 10 Cozza (8 Barreto 46), Aronica (23 Modesto 63); 25 Montiel; 32 Pettinari, 24 Tullberg.
Subs not used: Saraò, 35 Viola, 26 Squillace, 27 Lamenta.
Coach: Renzo Ulivieri.

Inter (4-4-2): 22 Orlandoni; 24 Rivas, 23 Materazzi (42 Maaroufi 75), 25 Samuel (37 Puccio 46), 40 Fatic; 21 Solari, 30 Pelé, 16 Burdisso, 31 Cesar; 18 Crespo (46 Napoli 85), 44 Balotelli.
Subs not used: 71 Alfonso, 47 Filippini, 43 Pedrelli, 48 Gerbo.
Coach: Roberto Mancini.

Referee: Matteo Trefoloni (Siena).

Booked: Aronica 6, Pelé 38, Balotelli 76.

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