Balotelli keeps Inter on course

Italian champions Inter Milan extended their lead at the Serie A summit to nine points after substitute Mario Balotelli struck a second-half equaliser to earn them a 1-1 draw at Parma.

Parma, who have slipped down the table after a strong start to the season, took the lead early in the second half at the Stadio Ennio Tardini through on-loan Manchester City forward Valeri Bojinov. Balotelli - who angered coach Jose Mourinho a week ago at his reaction to being substituted - was introduced from the bench in response and he slammed home the equaliser barely two minutes after coming on. The hosts finished the game with 10 men after Francesco Valiani was sent off with 18 minutes to play.

Inter missed out on the chance to build an 11-point advantage over second-place Roma, but they are still on course for a fifth successive Italian title with 15 games of the season to go. Parma, promoted from Serie B last term, climb one place to 12th.

In a game initially postponed due to heavy snow, Goran Pandev threatened early on for the visitors but his instinctive snapshot was palmed around the post at full stretch by Antonio Mirante.

Inter enjoyed the lion's share of possession in the first half but they struggled to make their dominance count and were troubled on the counter-attack by the pace of French forward Jonathan Biabiany. Mirante kept the scores blank shortly after the half-hour mark when he blocked a half-volley from Diego Milito after the Argentine striker had been picked out by a deep pass from Thiago Motta.

The hosts began to commit more men forward in the early stages of the second period and they were rewarded in the 54th minute. Inter goalkeeper Julio Caesar reacted well to keep out Cristian Zaccardo's header from a corner but Bojinov was on hand to convert the rebound.

Mourinho responded by summoning Balotelli from the bench in place of Motta and almost immediately the substitute drew his side level, firing into the top corner after Lucio flicked on a corner in the 59th minute. Parma's hopes of victory were effectively extinguished in the 72nd minute when Valiani picked up his second yellow card for a foul on Lucio, but on-loan Inter man Luis Jimenez spurned a late chance in injury time for the hosts.