Inter in gear ahead of United trip

Inter Milan clicked ominously into gear ahead of their UEFA Champions League trip to Manchester United with an impressive 2-0 victory at Genoa. Goals from Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Mario Balotelli sent Jose Mourinho's team ten points clear at the top, but perhaps more impressive was the manner of this victory. Inter played like a Mourinho team: full of power, commitment, organisation and a little swagger too.

The only negatives for Mourinho were injuries to two centre-backs, as both Marco Materazzi and Nicolas Burdisso left the game during the first half. That and United's impressive showing in beating Fulham in the FA Cup will be Mourinho's two main worries ahead of Wednesday's UEFA Champions League last 16 match at Old Trafford which is finely balanced at 0-0 after the first leg.

This win was the perfect response to Inter's midweek 3-0 Coppa Italia defeat to Sampdoria. "What happened against Sampdoria was due to individual mistakes, which can happen in football," said Mourinho. "Tonight we played with great spirit. After losing Materazzi and Burdisso, we had some problems with our formation. Ibrahimovic wanted to come off, but other players like Balotelli were fantastic. They weren't easy opponents."

Inter got off to a wonderful start with Dejan Stankovic playing in Ibrahimovic in the second minute and the big Sweden forward holding off two challenges before chipping Genoa goalkeeper Rubinho. Genoa had a real go at Inter in the first 45 minutes and Brazilian goalkeeper Julio Cesar twice had to save the champions with excellent saves from Thiago Motta and Giuseppe Biava.

Any chance the hosts had of getting back into this game ended just past the hour mark, as teenage forward Balotelli added the second goal, although there was a doubt as to whether or not the ball actually crossed the line. The win puts the champions ten points clear of second-placed Juventus, who are facing Torino today.

Earlier, ten-man Roma missed the chance to move into the top four as they were held to a 1-1 home draw by Udinese. They are now level on 45 points with Genoa but crucially one point behind fourth-placed Fiorentina, who host Palermo on 8 March.