ROME, Feb 16, 2011 (AFP) - Inter Milan kept up their title challenge with a hard-fought 2-1 victory at Fiorentina on Wednesday.
An own goal from Michele Camporese gave the champions the lead before Manuel Pasquale's cross trickled over the line to restore parity.
But Giampaolo Pazzini struck the winner from close range to keep Leonardo's team in the scudetto hunt.
|Inter Milan's Cameroonian forward Samuel Eto'o (R) fights for the ball with Fiorentina's defender Alessandro Gamberini during Italian serie A football match Fiorentina vs InterMilan , at Artemio Franchi stadium in Florence on February 16, 2011. AFP|
The victory moved them up to third in Serie A, five points behind leaders and city rivals AC Milan, and it was the perfect response after the criticism directed at the team in the Italian press after Sunday's 1-0 loss at Juventus.
This was Inter's eighth win in 10 league games under the Brazilian coach, who joined in late December.
Leonardo shouted himself hoarse during the game and consequently sent his assistant, Giuseppe Baresi, to speak to the media afterwards.
"After the defeat in Turin this game was more important than ever," admitted Baresi. "It's never easy to win in Florence but we showed we're in good form.
"It's an important win, it was vital to get the three points tonight. The team really wanted it after the Juve defeat."
Fiorentina coach Sinisa Mihajlovic, the former Inter assistant, said the visitors were simply too clinical.
"Fortunately we don't play against Inter every Sunday. If we'd played someone else we'd have won," he said.
"But we didn't deserve to lose, we created a lot of chances whereas they had two chances and scored two goals.
"But when you play the big teams you only need to make one mistake and you pay dearly."
Fiorentina suffered a nightmare start as a Samuel Eto'o shot cannoned off Camporese and into his own net after just six minutes.
The hosts were quick to respond, though, with Adrian Mutu forcing Julio Cesar into a diving save from a free-kick a few minutes later.
Inter's Dejan Stankovic tried his luck from distance but didn't trouble Artur Boruc.
Fiorentina's equaliser on 33 minutes had a touch of fortune about it as well as Pasqual's cross from deep on the left touchline was missed by Alberto Gilardino, but his presence did enough to deceive Cesar and the ball beat the Brazilian before going in off the far post.
La Viola pushed forward and Riccardo Montolivo's measured strike was inadvertently blocked by Gilardino.
Chances came thick and fast at the end of the first period.
Cesar parried a dipping, swerving Mutu shot before Pazzini rose to head Maicon's deep cross just wide.
Gilardino was inches off target with a left-foot effort that had Cesar beaten before Maicon burst forward, played a one-two with Pazzini but then hooked his shot wide.
Fiorentina's Adem Ljajic then cut inside his marker and unleashed a fierce drive that Cesar parried.
Early in the second period Stankovic had a clear sight of goal but miskicked and almost deceived Boruc, who made an instinctive one-handed save.
Gilardino then had a sight of goal but Andrea Ranocchia slid in to deflect his shot over the bar.
Inter were back in front on 62 minutes after Eto'o beat Camporese with embarrassing ease on the right before crossing for Pazzini to score a classic poacher's goal inside the six-yard box.
In the day's other game, Brazilian Rafinha scored the only goal as Genoa claimed derby honours with a 1-0 win away to Sampdoria.
It was a result that took Genoa above their neighbours, although both sides remain in mid-table.