Last-gasp Inter give Ranieri reprieve

AFP, Saturday 10 Mar 2012

Argentines Walter Samuel and Diego Milito struck inside the last three minutes to give Inter Milan their first win in 10 games in a 2-0 success at Chievo on Friday while Napoli thumped Cagliari 6-3

Diego Milito

Inter gave coach Claudio Ranieri a vital boost ahead of Tuesday's crucial Champions League second round, second leg clash with Marseille at the San Siro.

The Italians, who won the competition two years ago, trail 1-0 from the first leg in France and many in Italy believe Ranieri's job depends on progress to the quarter-finals.

Inter toiled for 87 minutes in Verona and looked to be heading for their eighth blank in their last 10 games until the dramatic late finale.

The win moved them up to sixth in Serie A and boosted their hopes of securing a European finish.

The nerazzurri had lost seven of their previous nine matches, failing to score in any of those and it was easy to see why in the first half.

They had a great chance to take the lead when Francesco Acerbi needlessly handled in the box as Lucio tried to go around him.

But goalkeeper Stefano Sorrentino tipped Milito's penalty kick onto the post and Chievo survived.

Playmaker Wesley Sneijder then set his sights from distance but his dipping shot hit the bar.

Inter put together a sweeping move that ended with Dejan Stankovic hitting a volley just over.

It wasn't all one-way traffic, though, as Sergio Pellissier burst into the area but goalkeeper Julio Cesar saved his close range shot with Lucio putting the forward under pressure.

The best chance in the second half went Chievo's way as United States midfielder Michael Bradley fired a free-kick just over the bar.

That was until Inter's grandstand finish as Samuel headed home a Sneijder corner three minutes from time.

And in the very last minute Milito made amends for his earlier penalty miss as he headed in from captain Javier Zanetti's cross.

Napoli won for the sixth time in a row to move up to fourth, within two points of the final Champions League qualifying position for next season.

This game looked to be over by the half hour mark as Napoli stormed into a three goal lead, but there was far more drama to come.

Marek Hamsik made the most of a slip by Daniele Conti to move into space and lash a low drive from 25 yards inside the post on 10 minutes.

Nine minutes later Paolo Cannavaro headed home a free-kick from Ezequiel Lavezzi, although there was a hint of offside.

And then Argeninte forward Lavezzi burst down the right and his cross was turned home past his own keeper by Davide Astori.

The game seemed over but Joaquin Larrivey headed home Conti's free-kick on 37 minutes.

And moments later goalkeeper Morgan De Sanctis had to spoon the ball onto the post from Ribeiro's prod as Cagliari came close to a second.

Lavezzi was brought down by Michele Canini and dispatched the penalty himself before making way for the rested Edinson Cavani.

The Uruguay forward then teed up Walter Gargano to shoot home a left-footed volley.

Napoli's final goal came from a long punt from De Sanctis which Goran Pandev controlled before playing in Cristian Maggio to shoot home.

Either side of that Larrivey completed his hat-trick with a pair of headers from Victor Ibarbo crosses.

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