Inter Milan continued their 100 per cent record under Leonardo, beating Bologna 4-1 at the San Siro this evening, with Samuel Eto'o producing an unplayable performance, scoring two and setting up another. With a difficult first half to the season behind them, Inter looked like their old selves again as they cruised to victory against their troubled opponents, leaving them perilously close to the drop zone.
Dejan Stankovic, Diego Milito and Eto'o's brace - taking his tally to 23 goals in 26 games this season -moved Inter up to fourth, for a day at least, and just eight points behind leaders Milan having played a game less. It was a special night of celebration for Inter as captain Javier Zanetti equalled Giuseppe Bergomi's record of 519 Serie A appearances for the club.
Henry Gimenez scored Bologna's late consolation in a terrible week for the club who were hit with a three-point deduction for failing to pay taxes and player salaries. It was vintage Inter from the off as Leonardo's team romped to their fourth straight win under the Brazilian, who took over from the sacked Rafael Benitez at the end of December.
But Leonardo downplayed his own contribution. "This is the same Inter that we've seen for a long time. Inter have very clear ideas, a gameplan, players in form," he said. "We've managed to win difficult matches, we've struggled like against Napoli, we came back against Catania but today was an almost complete performance."
Inter have scored 12 goals in Leonardo's four games but also conceded five from set-pieces. "I don't think it's a defect, it's a coincidence. We've conceded a few goals from set pieces."
Milito had an early chance but somehow managed to hit the woodwork from just two yards out while Bologna goalkeeper Emiliano Viviano, a reported Inter target, made excellent saves to deny Eto'o and Maicon.
Eto'o utterly unstoppable
Inter went in front on 20 minutes as Eto'o burst past a defender and then slid a pass into Stankovic to score into an unguarded net, although TV replays suggested the Serbian may have been offside.
Ten minutes later and the hosts doubled their advantage as an inch-perfect pass from Thiago Motta sent Milito scampering away before teasing a defender and then finishing left-footed across Viviano, the ball passing through the goalkeeper's fingers.
Viviano may have been hoping his potential new employers missed that error while opposing keeper Luca Castellazzi seemed determined to show he's worth holding onto. On 34 minutes Marco Di Vaio had a great chance breaking beyond the Inter defence but Castellazzi made a splendid one-handed save from his 20-yard shot. And moments later he made a sprawling save to stop a Di Vaio free-kick.
Inter seemed to have taken their foot off the peddle after the break as Bologna pushed for a route back into the game. Gimenez shot narrowly over and then Di Vaio flashed another free-kick barely an inch past the post. But Bologna's hopes of dragging themselves back into the game were killed by a wonderful goal on 63 minutes.
Eto'o teased a defender out on the left, nutmegged him in passing to Milito who sent a first time backheel into the Cameroon forward's run and Eto'o finished crisply into the bottom corner. Eto'o put the final nail in Bologna's coffin with a sweetly-struck free-kick into the top corner. Gimenez then prodded home 13 minutes from time but the game was already over.