Inter 0-1 Novara
Caracciolo stunner deals massive blow to Nerazzurri's Champions League hopes
The big striker hit the only goal of the game 11 minutes into the second half, and even Ivan Radovanovic's sending-off wasn't enough to help the Milanese giants back into the game
Inter's chances of qualifying for the Champions League were dealt a huge blow on Sunday as Novara shocked San Siro with a 1-0 victory despite finishing the game with just 10 men.
Former Palermo, Brescia and Genoa striker Andrea Caracciolo struck a wonderful left-footed effort in the 56th minute to give Emiliano Mondonico’s men a shock lead, and they were able to hold on to claim the three points despite the sending-off of Ivan Radovanovic 10 minutes from time.
Inter enjoyed the best of the opening exhanges, and a magnificent early move involving four players nearly resulted in a goal for the returning Wesley Sneijder, but Samir Ujkani got down to hold his side-footed effort.
Novara were dealt the early blow of losing Hernan Paolo Dellafiore inside 15 minutes, with Michel Morganella replacing him in the already overworked visitors’ back line.
The lively Sneijder continued to ask questions of the Azzurri defence, and when he made progress down the left his cross into the middle just beat the advancing Diego Milito in the centre and flashed wide of the far post.
The Nerazzurri then appeared to have won a penalty when Santiago Garcia went right through Andrea Poli as the ex-Sampdoria man shaped up to shoot, but referee Carmine Russo somehow waved play on.
Claudio Ranieri made a change at half time, bringing on Giampaolo Pazzini for Ricardo Alvarez to give them added threat in front of goal, but in the early moments of the second half the home side could do little more to break down Mondonico’s side than they had managed before the break.
Milito got away in the left channel, but when he looked to cut inside to get a shot in he was foiled by Ujkani.
Moments later Lucio slid in to meet a right-wing cross from Sneijder, but it was cleared and Novara broke with a vengeance, freeing Caracciolo 20 yards from goal. The big striker cut in onto his left foot and unleashed a beautiful curling effort past Julio Cesar to stun the San Siro crowd.
Ranieri responded by replacing Poli and Cristian Chivu with Diego Forlan and Yuto Nagatomo as his side chased a vital equaliser, but when Sneijder got into a good position to cross he instead shot into the side netting at the near post.
As Inter got more desperate Novara’s defence seemed to become more stubborn, and Forlan could only find the Curva Nord when cutting onto his left when in a similar position to that from which Caracciolo had scored.
However, the Piedmont side were left hanging on with 10 men when Radovanovic was shown a second yellow card for kicking the ball away after Morganella had brought down Nagatomo just outside the Novara area.
Inter almost grabbed an equaliser three minutes from time when Sneijder unleashed a right-footed shot, but the Dutchman's effort bounced back off the bar, and Lucio couldn't turn home the rebound.
Ujkani then made a miraculous late save from Pazzini to ensure that Novara held on for the surprise victory.
The result leaves Inter six points off the Champions League pace in fifth position, while Novara could celebrate doing the double over their esteemed rivals, moving up to 16 points but remaining four short of Siena, who occupy the all-important 17th spot.
Udinese 1-2 AC Milan
Maxi Lopez and El Shaarawy seal magnificent comeback win as champions go top of Serie A
In a vastly improved second-half performance, two goals ensured that the Rossoneri ended their poor form of late to replace Juventus at the summit of the league
AC Milan came from behind to beat Udinese 2-1 at the Stadio Friuli to take a valuable three points which take them to the top of Serie A.
The Zebrette started well and took a first-half lead through Antonio Di Natale. However, a vastly improved second-half display saw the Rossoneri come back from the dead through late strikes from Maxi Lopez and Stephan El Shaarawy.
Udinese sat fairly deep from the off as they looked to catch Milan on the break, and Mauricio Isla saw his ambitious effort fly narrowly over the bar after just 15 minutes.
In the 19th minute Di Natale picked up the ball in the middle of the Milan half and played a give-and-go with Gelson Fernandes. It cut straight through the heart of Milan’s defence and the prolific striker’s effort deflected off of Thiago Silva and looped over Marco Amelia and into the net.
With Milan being overwhelmed in the midfield, the Zebrette missed a chance to enhance their lead with 10 minutes of the first half remaining. Isla sent in a lovely ball from the left and a confident Di Natale attempted to shoot first time but snatched at it, sending it back across goal and wide.
With Zlatan Ibrahimovic absent due to suspension, the Milan attack lacked a focal point with Robinho and El Shaarawy up front. The Italian striker almost pounced on some lax defending in stoppage time but fired over the bar from close range.
The Rossoneri emerged a different side for the second half, but for all their improved creativity and motivation the equaliser remained elusive. Ignazio Abate and Clarence Seedorf both put in some great deliveries but there was no Milan player to add the finishing touch.
Pablo Armero was having a storming game and should have put Udinese two goals up as they worked their way back into the game. Di Natale’s through ball put the Colombian through one-on-one but Djamel Mesbah showed a great turn of pace to recover and steal the ball off his toe.
After substitute Maxi Lopez threw himself to the ground at the edge of the box, Udinese countered. Armero passed to Maurizio Domizzi who stabbed a tame effort at goal which Amelia turned behind. From the resultant corner Danilo forced the keeper into a great save.
The home side were made to rue their missed chances moments later when Samir Handanovic spilled El Shaarawy’s shot into the path of Maxi Lopez, who slotted into the open net.
Two minutes later El Shaarawy and Robinho were both denied after a defensive mix-up almost handed Milan the lead.
The Rossoneri completed their comeback with five minutes of normal time remaining when Maxi Lopez centred the ball from the right flank and El Shaarawy fired emphatically in at the near post.
The win means that Milan overtake Juventus and sit on top of the league, with the Old Lady out of action this weekend due to the snow-enforced postponement of their trip to Bologna. Udinese remain fourth but could see Inter close the gap between the two sides to just two points tomorrow when they host Novara.
The match Bologna vs Juventus is posponed because of weather conditions!