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Internazionale

Serie A heavyweights head-to-head

50-50 Challenge
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Inter cruise but Mazzarri must release shackles

A second consecutive away win for Inter Milan on Saturday saw them beat Europa League challengers Parma 2-0 -- Rolando and Fredy Guarin’s second-half goals gave the Nerazzurri the three points, and this was a big win for Walter Mazzarri’s side at a ground where they had not won since 2008.

In the race for Europe, Inter are now five points ahead of Parma and Milan, with four games left in the season. The Coppa Italia matchup means that seventh place will qualify for Europe this season but with back-to-back wins the past two weekends, Inter have created some breathing room between themselves and the sides battling for the last spot.

- Report: Parma 0-2 Inter - Wilson: Ignore the soap opera

Saturday’s win at Parma had a lot of similarities with the win at Sampdoria a week ago. Once again it took two world-class saves in the first half from Samir Handanovic for Mazzarri’s side get to halftime on level terms. This time it was former Inter striker Antonio Cassano that Handanovic denied; the first save was from a bullet of a header from Cassano off a Mattia Cassani corner but it was the second save that will make the highlight reels.

With one minute left in the first half, Walter Samuel was somehow judged to have tripped Marco Parolo in the penalty box. It was a really soft penalty, the kind that Inter have not received all season. But Handanovic brilliantly tipped Cassano’s penalty on to the post and his side escaped. That was the Slovenia keeper's 16th saved penalty in his Serie A career; a remarkable number.

That was all the advantage that Inter needed, as they were content to soak up any Parma pressure and looked dangerous on the counter-attack. And then with only one minute left in the game, substitute Fredy Guarin wrapped up all three points when his long range shot found the bottom corner of the net. If Guarin’s shooting accuracy was better he would be a world class player instead of an enigma that frustrates fans.

It was not all good news for Mazzarri though. Yellow cards to both Samuel and Rolando mean that they will both be suspended for next weekend’s home match against Napoli. With Juan Jesus out with a season-ending injury and Andrea Ranocchia missing the Parma trip due to injury, Mazzarri has a defensive crisis on his hands.

So two good back to back wins for Inter and it looks like Mazzarri has turned around the teams’ form at just the right time. The two clean sheets are a little misleading, but six goals away from home is impressive.

After Rolando’s goal Mazzarri became much more pragmatic and we rarely saw the midfield three join in the attack in the second half, content as they were to sit deep and stifle the opposition. Parma were down to 10-men and instead of going for the jugular and getting a second and maybe a third goal, Mazzarri was content to try and manage the game out from the 46th minute onward. That tactic worked as Parma never seriously looked like scoring but there have been times this season when that idea has backfired and Inter have conceded late equalisers or winners.

Overall though a good win and performance that sets Inter up well for the visit of Rafa Benitez and Napoli to the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza next weekend.