On-loan Inter Milan goalkeeper Francesco Bardi and Japanese defender Yuto Nagatomo provided the goals in Inter’s 2-0 win over promoted Livorno to reinforce fourth place in Italy’s Serie A on Saturday.
Although struggling to hit the heights in Serie A, Livorno were doing a good job of keeping Inter at bay until Bardi blundered to hand the hosts a barely-deserved lead on the half hour.
A Jonathan cross was whipped in from the right and although Bardi had two defenders close by to sweep up the threat, the ‘keeper dived for the ball and saw it slip under his body and into the net.
Rodrigo Palacio could have doubled Inter’s lead but a looping header went over and the Argentinian striker then had a penalty claimed waved off as he tumbled after unleashing a shot.
Bardi made amends before the break when he got down low to smother Ricardo Alvarez’s daisy-cutter.
Inter dominated the second half, at the end of which 40-year-old Javier Zanetti entered the fray to a standing ovation to make his first appearance following a six and a half month injury lay-off due to an Achilles rupture.
Inter would finish the game with 10 men when Jonathan was stretchered off in the dying minutes due to cramp.
But it did not stop them from adding a second, Zanetti launching a move which saw midfielder Mateo Kovacic set up Nagatomo to beat Bardi with a half-volley.
Zanetti admitted it has been an emotional night.
“It’s very emotional for me because it wasn’t easy to come back after six months out,” Zanetti said.
“After the operation I said I dreamed of playing at least one more match in front of our fans and I managed it. I want to thank everyone who helped me and was close to me during these difficult months. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Inter coach Walter Mazzarri said Zanetti, despite his years, still had something to offer.
“He’ got something special and it’s obvious why he’s a world-class champion,” said Mazzarri.
“When we had our backs to the wall, he came on and restored calm. For him to come back at his age after such a long lay-off and be immediately so confident, it’s amazing.”