x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Pazzini makes immediate impact at Inter

Giampaolo Pazzini scores twice on debut to help Serie A champions Inter Milan come back from two goals down to secure a 3-2 win against Palermo.

Giampaolo Pazzini was sent off the last time he took part in a match involving Inter Milan at San Siro.

That day, he had been one of three recipients of red cards, and heard himself booed and jeered by the interisti during the 73 minutes he participated in the 0-0 draw, mainly for his perceived diving and some nagging at the referee, who dismissed two Inter players as well as Pazzini, then of Sampdoria.

Suffice to say "Pazzo", as he is nicknamed, now has a different image among most of those fans.

Pazzini had signed for Inter barely 24 hours before coming on as a substitute for the Italian and European champions on Sunday.

It was half time and Inter trailed Palermo 2-0, due to some untidy defending and fine finishing from Fabrizio Miccoli and Antonio Nocerino.

Enter Pazzini, the lithe striker for whom Inter paid €12 million (Dh60m) and let Samp have young winger Jonathan Biabany.

Eleven minutes into his debut Pazzini had neatly controlled the ball with his back to goal, turned and struck his first goal; 28 minutes in, he had headed his second, and, with 14 minutes left of the match, he sped clear of Ezequiel Munoz, the Palermo defender, who tugged at the striker and conceded a penalty. The spot-kick, converted by Samuel Eto'o, won Inter the game 3-2.

Or rather, that goal, plus the save of Javier Pastore's penalty by Julio Cesar, who returned to the Inter side after his injury lay-off, won Inter a fixture that feeds morale, that puts them back in the top four, and that, should they win their game in hand, would put them six points behind AC Milan, the league leaders, and two behind Napoli.

Symptoms of the sort of character Inter used to display under Jose Mourinho were easy to diagnose because of the nature of the comeback.

Leonardo, the new coach, will, however, be aware that some of the regular failings of the brief Rafa Benitez era, such as defensive sloppiness from the full-backs, meant that Inter gave themselves an early mountain to climb. One of those shortcomings leapt up the agenda yesterday, as, with the deadline for completing winter transfers approaching, Inter offered Davide Santon, their young full-back, to Genoa in exchange for Italy international left-back Domenico Criscito.

Massimo Moratti, the Inter president, was understood to be easily persuaded to make the inquiry. Santon made an error in the build-up to Palermo's first goal and Moratti could only feel his touch in the transfer market, so ill-fated during the first half of his 16 year presidency, is now Midas-like.

Besides Pazzini's extraordinary debut, there had been encouraging signals of authority from Andrea Ranocchia, who joined from Genoa for over €12m last month, in the centre of defence. Nor had Pazzini been the only supersub.

Houssine Kharja, the Moroccan international whose loan deal from Genoa was arranged last week, came on at half time for Inter with Pazzini. A Kharja pass led to one goal; another Kharja pass to the incident in which Pazzini gained the Inter penalty.

"There were so many positives from the game," Leonardo said, "although my heart-rate has taken longer then usual to come down."

If Inter look like the biggest winners in the transfer window, Sampdoria seem to be the biggest losers. Not six months ago, Samp were setting forth into the Champions League, for which they narrowly failed to reach the group stage via a play-off against Werder Bremen.

They were contributing more strikers than any other club to the Italian national squad. Then they lost Antonio Cassano, who fell out with Samp back in October and joined Milan on January 1.

Now they lose Pazzini, who, in the words of Riccardo Garrone, the president, "had his head turned by interest from Inter."

Samp duly suffered a thrashing at the weekend, from dynamic Napoli; Pazzini's head, meanwhile, is still spinning from his first 45 minutes as an Inter star.