Champions Inter Milan were held to a frustrating 0-0 draw away to Bologna in their opening match of the 2010/11 Serie A season on Monday. In a game delayed due to Inter's UEFA Super Cup commitments in Monaco on Friday, the Nerazzurri took 45 minutes to wake up and then despite bombarding Bologna's goal in the second period, they could find no way through.
If playing last season's treble winners wasn't tough enough already, Bologna's preparations were thrown into disarray on the eve of the match when president Sergio Porcedda sacked coach Franco Colomba and temporarily replaced him with youth team boss Paolo Magnani. But the hosts showed remarkable resilience, not least from goalkeeper Emiliano Viviano, who made a number of crucial saves, including one with his head.
Although Inter changed coaches in the summer - Rafael Benitez replacing the Real Madrid-bound Jose Mourinho - the starting XI in a 4-4-3 formation came straight from the Portuguese's mould. However, Inter failed to sparkle and only reached something resembling their own high standards after the interval.
Benitez paid tribute to Viviano's performance but lamented his team's lack of freshness. "He did very well with his head, with his hands, with everything," joked Benitez. "In the beginning we had control, we did well but then they had some chances on the counter-attack, but in the second half we did everything we'd spoken about beforehand.
"We're lacking physical condition and then (Bologna) worked well in defence, they were organised and it wasn't easy to find space, but I'm happy with the reaction of my team in the second half," the coach went on. "We hope to do better in future, we're at the beginning and everyone needs to understand that we must have more of the ball. We had some chances, we showed that even away we wanted to win. We had control, we did everything we could but we lacked freshness."
Inter had a scare on 14 minutes as Marco Di Vaio played a crossfield ball over the top that both centre-back Lucio and goalkeeper Julio Cesar went for. Lucio got in a weak clearance that went back across goal and left Julio Cesar stranded, but with an empty net to aim at Henry Gimenez lofted his shot hopelessly over the bar.
Inter were creating little of note with Esteban Cambiasso volleying over and Kenya international McDonald Mariga dragging a shot from the right well wide of the far post. Bologna again threatened on 41 minutes as Di Vaio crossed for Gimenez but the 24-year-old Uruguayan took an age to bring the ball down and then fired over. Late on in the half Wesley Sneijder dipped a free-kick just over the bar but Inter had failed to impose themselves on the first period.
After the break the champions started to turn the screw as Goran Pandev headed a Diego Milito cross straight at Viviano who then plunged to his left to keep out a rasping Sneijder drive. On 73 minutes Viviano made a stunning one-handed save to keep out a Sneijder free-kick and then moments later the stopper saved Bologna again. Substitute Coutinho crossed to Samuel Eto'o who came flying in to volley goalwards from two yards out but the ball cannoned off the unwitting Viviano's head, onto the bar and away to safety.
Despite being given a remarkable six minutes of stoppage time to try to find a winner, Inter could find no way through. Their bitter city rivals AC Milan head the table after their 4-0 thumping of newly-promoted Lecce on Sunday.