Ibrahimovic dazzles in Inter stroll
Zlatan Ibrahimovic was the hero as Inter Milan cruised to a 3-0 victory over rock-bottom Reggina at the San Siro to re-establish their seven-point lead at the top. Second-placed Juventus had briefly reduced the arrears on 21 March with a highly-impressive 4-1 romp at Roma, but Jose Mourinho's men showed they were in no mood to concede any ground in the title race.
Two goals in the first ten minutes effectively turned the top-versus-bottom meeting into a non-contest, despite Inter playing with midfielder Esteban Cambiasso in a patchwork centre-back pairing due to injuries. With only nine matches left to play, the chances of Juve catching Inter are diminishing and may even rest on the pair's match in Turin in April.
Inter got off to a fine start as Mario Balotelli played the ball into the area and a clever between-the-legs flick from Dejan Stankovic released Cambiasso to delicately chip over Christian Puggioni on six minutes. Just four minutes later Ibrahimovic doubled the hosts' advantage from the penalty spot after a contentious penalty award. Brazilian winger Mancini threw himself to the floor under minimal contact from Carlos Valdez, but the unsighted referee, whose view was blocked by two players, nevertheless pointed to the spot.
Inter threatened to run away with things as Ibrahimovic had two clear chances around the quarter-hour mark, but he scuffed a shot from eight yards well wide from Balotelli's pass and then took a ball from Davide Santon only to smack his shot onto a post. Reggina had one gilt-edged chance towards the end of the first half, after Inter's Colombian centre-back Nelson Rivas had been drawn out of position. Andrea Costa slipped in Antonino Barilla, but he shot straight at Brazilian goalkeeper Julio Cesar.
Just before the hour, Ibrahimovic put the icing on the cake and showed why he is thought of so highly in Italy. In almost a carbon copy of the famous goal Eric Cantona scored for Manchester United against Sunderland in 1996, Ibrahimovic picked up the ball 30 yards from goal, burst past three defenders and at the edge of the box and hit an exquisite chip over Puggioni into the top corner. Even his celebration was Cantona-esque as he shrugged before raising his arms in acceptance of the adulation his fans heaped on him. Reggina had one last chance late on to salvage something from the match, but Julio Cesar pulled off a fine save to deny Alessio Sestu.
In the race for fourth place and the final UEFA Champions League qualifying position, Genoa maintained their two-point lead over Fiorentina. Genoa beat Udinese 2-0 at home with goals from Giuseppe Sculli and Diego Milito, while Romania captain Adrian Mutu scored the only goal in La Viola's 1-0 home win over Siena.