Mancini secures first Inter win since return
16 December 2014, 10:36
Milan - Roberto Mancini claimed his first win as Inter Milan coach following his return to the club after goals from Mateo Kovacic and Andrea Ranocchia gave them a 2-0 victory over Serie A strugglers Chievo on Monday.
Mancini, who spent four success-laden years with the Nerazzurri from 2004-2008, took over in time for the Milan derby last month but after a 1-1 draw the 50-year-old was handed a reality check following defeats to Roma (4-2) and Udinese (2-1).
Mancini, who aims to end Inter's two-year absence from the Champions League with a third-place finish this season, saw his side move up one place to 11th to close the gap on Lazio, who presently occupy that third spot, to just six points -- although it was a far from straightforward affair at the Bentegodi Stadium.
Mancini told Sky Sport: "It was an important win because it has closed our deficit and given us confidence.
"Chievo are a good side, we didn't concede so I'm relatively happy."
Chievo coach Rolando Maran said: "We're disappointed because we were dangerous and created a lot of chances.
"I'm sorry for the result, but I can't complain about the players' attitude."
Inter had to rely on the heroics of Samir Handanovic throughout a one-sided first half that saw Chievo, fourth from bottom but unbeaten in their past five games, test the Slovenian 'keeper on several occasions.
Handanovic saved Inter's blushes inside 10 minutes when Alberto Paloschi pounced on a mis-hit pass only to be denied from point-blank range.
Kovacic broke the deadlock nine minutes later when he seized on a poor clearance by Alessandro Gamberini to beat Benjamin Bizzarri for his first goal in over two months.
Kovacic, who is being deployed as a 'trequartista' by Mancini admitted he is still adapting to his new role playing in the 'hole' behind the two strikers.
"I need to improve the way I find space and I'll do that with the coach's help," said Kovacic.
He added: "We took three vital points. We're happy with the win and want to keep it going against Lazio (on Sunday)."
But Handanovic came to the rescue again, palming away a Riccardo Meggiorini overhead kick, while Kovacic suffered two horrendous tackles inside the space of four minutes which earned Bostjan Cesar and Meggiorini a yellow card each.
Handanovic was almost caught out again on the cusp of half-time, when a Gennaro Sardo cross from the right byeline bounced off post and crossbar and came off the face of Sardo at the back post.
Yuto Nagatomo had Inter's first chance immediately after the restart but failed to find the target after being sent through by Fredy Guarin.
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Paloschi then fired wide of Handanovic's upright after Kuzmanovic lost possession in midfield to give the hosts a three-on-two.
Inter were beginning to control proceedings and on 55 minutes Danilo D'Ambrosio pounced on Kuzmanovic's corner to fire a deflected shot just wide of the upright.
When Inter doubled their lead minutes later, Ranocchia, unmarked on the edge of the box, only had to stroke D'Ambrosio's cross from the left past a beaten Bizzarri.
Inter's task was made somewhat easier on 72 minutes when Ruben Botta was cautioned for a second time and sent off after a forearm smash on Kuzmanovic during a mid-air challenge.
Soon after, Mancini replaced striker Mauro Icardi with French midfielder Yann M'Vila, a move which effectively locked down the game and ended Inter's five-game winless streak.
Earlier, Torino grabbed a point at fellow strugglers Empoli in a drab scoreless draw that helped edge both sides away from the drop zone.