FOLIGNO – He's the man who only scores important goals. 17-year-old Ibrahima Mbaye, who has already won a league title this year with Sergio Zanetti's Juniores (U18) side a few weeks ago, took the Inter Primavera team a step closer to the U19 Scudetto today with a winning brace against Palermo. This afternoon's 2-0 quarter-final win sets up a semi-final date on Wednesday evening, when Daniele Bernazzani's youngsters will face the winners of tonight's clash between Juventus and AC Milan. Mbaye's other goals this season came in the Milan derby and in the quarter-final of the NextGen Series against Sporting Lisbon...
The Nerazzurri dominated the first half an hour as they carved out four clear-cut chances, coming particularly close when Crisetig hit the top of the bar following Bessa's 14th-minute free kick. The Sicilian outfit showed their quality in the final 15 minutes of the half, however, and their top league scorer Bollino (18 goals this term) had two great chances to break the deadlock: first he struck the post when clean through on goal inside the box then, when he managed to get in behind the Inter rearguard again, Di Gennaro rushed off his line to save the day.
Tensions began to rise as the first period drew to a close after a free kick was awarded against Palermo keeper Micai on the edge of the box (put under pressure by that man Mbaye again...). In the third minute of added time - well after the two minutes previously signalled by the ref - Mbaye gave Inter the lead. From a corner on the left, Crisetig and Bessa combined before the latter sent over a cross to the far post for the Senegalese full-back to head home.
Tempers continued to flare as the teams entered the dressing rooms, with some of the Palermo players launching accusations at members of the Nerazzurri dugout. Palermo goalkeeper Micai went way over the top with the protests and was duly sent off amidst the chaos.
With a one-goal advantage, Inter controlled the second half and only had one real scare (Di Gennaro again coming off his line well to save low). Palermo found it increasingly difficult to contain the Nerazzurri and substitute keeper Patania kept his side in it on at least three occasions. Yet he could do nothing to prevent Mbaye adding his second of the day: Benassi drilled a low free kick through a crowded box and the goal-plundering full-back got the deftest of touches to make it 2-0.
Late on in the game Livaja got himself sent off after failing to keep his cool when provoked by Vassallo; he said a few words too many to the referee just as Bernazzani was trying to replace him with Forte. The Croatian striker will therefore miss Wednesday's semi- final.
Inter 2-0 Palermo (HT: 1-0)
Scorers: Mbaye 45+3, 80.
Palermo (4-3-3): Micai; Caputo, Prestia, Kosnic, Di Chiara; Vassallo, Barberis, Sanseverino (Verdun 82); Bollino, Malele (De Vita 70), Jara Martinez (Patania 46). Unused subs: 9 Zerbo, 13 Cerniglia, 17 Aquino Inchausti, 19 Rojas Peralta. Coach: Ruisi.Referee: Martinelli (Rome section).
Booked: Mbaye (I), Prestia (P), Barberis (P), Di Chiara (P).
Sent off: Micai (P) 45+3, Livaja (I) 88.