Fredy Guarin fires Inter top of Serie A

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Fredy Guarin scored his 15th Serie A goal.

A Fredy Guarin piledriver fired Inter Milan two points clear at the top of Serie A with a 1-0 win over AC Milan, for whom Mario Balotelli made his second debut on Sunday.

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Having failed to qualify for Europe this season, both Milan giants are desperate to make up for years of underachiement — and on this performance may now fancy their chances of a top finish, especially given Juventus’s early season woes.

Milan spurned a great chance inside the third minute, Carlos Bacca pouncing on a mis-hit clearance by Jeison Murillo to find Luiz Adriano, who saw his shot blocked by the onrushing Samir Handanovic.

On-loan Manchster City forward Stevan Jovetic drilled just wide of Diego Lopez’s post at the other end moments later after Adriano had given up possession cheaply.

In the last six league derbies neither side had scored more than one goal and the near capacity crowd of 79,154 fans almost saw one as Inter suffered a scare soon after.

Bacca found Adriano with a defence-splitting pass only for the former Shakhtar marksman to skew his effort high and wide while under pressure.

When Giacomo Bonaventura countered on 19 minutes, his pinpoint pass found Adriano but the Brazilian was blocked by Juan Jesus as he was about to pull the trigger.

At the other end, Ivan Perisic did well to find Guarin to the right of the area but the Colombian’s effort deflected out for a corner.

Jovetic produced Inter’s first chance of the second half after a poor Lopez clearance, but the Argentinian’s effort was blocked.

A Perisic ball from the left flank caused confusion and Lopez tipped Guarin’s bouncing header over the bar.

The Spanish goalkeeper was finally beaten when Milan’s defence fatally backed off and allowed Guarin to unleash a drive that beat Lopez at his far corner for his 15th Serie A goal on his 100th league appearance.

Milan coach Sinisa Mihajlovic immediately replaced Bacca with Mario Balotelli, the former Inter striker’s arrival prompting a deafening chorus of boos that quietened when the on-loan Liverpool forward whipped in a free-kick that went dangerously close to Handanovic’s far post.

Defender Alex Telles made his Inter debut when he replaced Jesus and, moments later, he did well to block Honda’s cross from the right, while at the other end Abate intervened in timely fashion to block Icardi’s effort on goal from Davide Santon’s nicely weighted pass.

Balotelli, however, was making an impact, notably shaving the outside of Handanovic’s post from outside the area with 12 minutes left on the clock.

Minutes later he won a free kick from a challenge by Guarin, and from 35 yards drove just wide of the upright. Mancini responded by replacing Perisic with defender Andtea Ranocchia with five minutes to play and Inter hung on to claim city bragging rights.

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Derby di Milano spoils can inspire Inter league bid – Roberto Mancini

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Thinking big: Roberto Mancini has emphasised the need to build momentum.

Internazionale coach Roberto Mancini has stressed the importance of winning Sunday’s derby against AC Milan because of the need to build momentum.

The Nerazzurri have won both of their games so far, edging Atalanta 1-0 in their Serie A opener before prevailing 2-1 at promoted Carpi prior to the international break.

“We need to give continuity to our results,” Mancini said. “The first six or seven games of the season are always about adaptation.

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“But it’s important to start well in order to gain confidence as the season goes on.”

The two Milan sides have made heavy summer investments following last season’s disappointing results which saw both sides miss out on European competition.

The best way for Inter to hit back is to be a serious title contender.

“The Scudetto?,” Mancini said. “Every team can think big and so can Inter. To achieve this, we need to work very hard.”

AC Milan have great hopes this season after spending more than €91 million (Dh379) reinforcing their squad. 

The Rossoneri appointed Sinisa Mihajlovic as their coach to replace Filipo Inzaghi, who was sacked after last season’s 10th-place finish.

Mihajlovic, a former assistant to Mancini at Inter, endured a disappointing start with a defeat at Fiorentina but the Rossoneri bounced back with a 2-1 victory over Empoli last time out.

“In recent seasons, Milan hasn’t been Milan,” Mihajlovic said. “But we are convinced that we will be among the contenders this season.

“We have to do better in our next games and I’m sure we will make up for things in the derby.”

Mihajlovic is expected to hand former Inter player Mario Balotelli his first appearance since returning to the Rossoneri club on a one-season loan from Liverpool last month.

However, Balotelli is unlikely to start with summer signings Carlos Bacca and Luiz Adriano set to lead the Rossoneri up front.

Milan are without midfielder Andrea Bertolacci, who is out with a thigh injury, while Inter will not have defender Joao Miranda available who has a knee injury.

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