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Plucky Palermo Stun Inter In Season Opener

The final game on the opening weekend of Serie A was certainly worth the wait as Palermo narrowly edged out Inter by the odd goal in seven on Sunday evening, and topped off a 35-goal filled weekend of action in Italy. The Rosanero twice came from behind to overcome favourites Inter 4-3 in an early contender for game of the season. Plucky

The fixture pitted together two new managers at the opposite end of the managerial timeline, and it was youth that overcame experience as Palermo caretaker boss Devis Mangia got the better of former Genoa head coach Gian Piero Gasperini. It has been a turbulent summer at both clubs with Gasperini taking over from Leonardo as head coach at Inter, who has replaced last season’s top scorer Samuel Eto’o with Diego Forlan and Mauro Zarate. This is nothing compared to Sunday’s opponents Palermo, who had their second manager of the summer in the dugout in the shape of Mangia, who at 37 doesn’t even have the required UEFA coaching badges. Not to mention the 42 summer transactions in and out of Palermo, which most notably saw rising star Javier Pastore seek pastures new with a switch to big spending PSG.

It was no surprise to see two new systems in place come Sunday evening at Stadio Renzo Barbera, with Mangia switching to a more conventional 4-4-2 formation, and Gasperini implementing his trusty 3-4-3 formation that brought him to prominence at Genoa in previous seasons. However there was no room in the system for Inter talisman Wesley Sneijder who started the game from the bench, and his presence was clearly lacking as the Sicilians made the brighter start. The Palermo front line of Hernandez and Miccoli linked up well in the early stages and were a constant threat to Inter’s rear-guard, who were clearly still trying to find their feet in a back three.

However, it was Inter who took the lead against the run of play as Diego Milito diverted Dejan Stankovic’s stray effort goal bound after Palermo had only half cleared an Inter corner. Inter had been second best up until this point with both Forlan and Zarate struggling in wide positions either side of goal scorer Milito. And the goal was not enough to brighten Gasperini’s mood as the ineffectual Zarate was replaced by Sneijder in the aftermath of Milito’s strike.

The goal had subdued the hosts somewhat who had made a promising start to the game and Inter went into the break ahead. But young Mangia’s first ever half-time team talk worked wonders, as it took only three minutes of the second half for Palermo to draw level as their captain Fabrizio Miccoli coolly slotted home following Edgar Barreto’s through ball. The leveller sparked a roller coaster five minutes as Inter, looking much more balanced following Sneijder’s introduction, had claims for a penalty dismissed after Giulio Migliaccio denied Milito a certain second as he handled his effort off the line. Milito felt that justice was served just moments later as from the resulting corner, Silvestre was adjudged to bring down Walter Samuel, leaving Milito with the task to smash home his second from the spot. These were Milito’s first goals against Italian opposition in 13 matches, as he started to show the form that earned him his move to Inter when playing at Genoa under Gasperini.

Inter’s lead lasted barely three minutes as Abel Hernandez rounded off a fine team move, slotting home following strike partner Miccoli’s cut-back. It was not the first time the two had combined, and the pair certainly seem to have struck up a good early relationship.

But with half an hour to play, Inter’s added quality began to show, and the introductions of Obi and summer signing Alvarez gave them the upper hand against what looked like a tiring Palermo side. They could not make their dominance count though, and it was the Rosanero who having weathered the storm went ahead for the first time. It was again their captain Miccoli, whose brilliant free kick in the 86th minute left Inter stunned, and this was quickly followed up by a wonder strike from substitute Mauricio Pinilla. The former Hearts frontman left Julio Caesar glued to the spot with his strike from distance in the 88th minute, which sparked celebrations in the dugout from caretaker coach Mangia.

The drama did not stop there, and  there was still time for a debut goal from Forlan, a well taken left footed strike into the top corner following a delightful pass from the outside of Sneijder’s right boot. As good a goal as it was, it remained only a consolation as Palermo held out for the three points in a 4-3 thriller, in what was only their second win against Inter in 23 attempts. The game certainly provided both new managers with plenty to think about – Mangia will be left wandering if he did enough to prevent enigmatic Palermo President Maurizio Zamparini to hire an unprecedented sixth manager of 2011. With Inter coach Gasperini heading back to the drawing board to rethink how to get the best out of his new look frontline in his favoured 3-4-3 system ahead of the start of Inter’s Champions League campaign on Wednesday.

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