Defending champions Inter were held to a surprise 1-1 draw at home to promoted Bari at the San Siro on Sunday in their first match of the new Serie A season, but rivals Juventus got off to a winning start as Vincenzo Iaquinta scored the only goal in a 1-0 home success against Chievo.
Cameroon forward Samuel Eto’o scored his first goal for Inter since joining from Barcelona in a swap deal that saw Zlatan Ibrahimovic head to Spain, but Vitaly Kutuzov’s equalizer earned plucky Serie A newboys Bari a deserved share of the spoils.
Inter coach Jose Mourinho picked new signings Eto’o and Diego Milito up front together, but they could not fire the champions to victory.
“We have the quality to do well, we played a great game, but we didn’t have the luck needed to score a second goal and make the game safe,” the Portuguese boss said. “Unfortunately, we lack a bit of fluidity, we haven’t had long to work together. We’re not a team that makes excuses and I don’t want to justify the loss of two points, but it’s a fact that we’ve changed a lot and we’re lacking fluidity.”
Inter were creating little in the early stages and survived a scare at the other end when France captain Patrick Vieira’s clumsy challenge brought down Riccardo Allegretti right on the edge of the box.
Allegretti curled the free-kick over the wall, but Julio Cesar was quickly across his line to make the save.
Vieira then played a sublime ball over the top of the defense for Milito, who couldn’t keep his volley down.
Mourinho was clearly unhappy with what he saw and switched things around before the half-hour was even up, bringing on Mario Balotelli for Sulley Muntari and changing the formation from a 4-4-2 with a midfield diamond to 4-3-3.
The coach then revealed, however, that the switch was probably more because of Ramadan than tactical.
“Muntari had some problems related to Ramadan, perhaps with this heat it’s not good for him to be doing this [fasting],” said Mourinho about Sulley’s substitution.
Muslims are expected to fast — abstaining from food and drink — during daylight hours at Ramadan.
“Ramadan has not arrived at the ideal moment for a player to play a football match,” Mourinho said.
Another new signing Thiago Motta shot just wide from outside the area, but Inter centerbacks Lucio and Marco Materazzi got in each other’s way to allow Kutuzov a run clean through on goal, only for the Belarus international to tread on the ball and lose momentum.
Mourinho changed things again at the break, bringing winger Ricardo Quaresma on for his defensive midfielder Vieira and reverting to a 4-4-2 with wide men.
The move was soon to pay dividends, although in controversial fashion as Milito slumped to the ground in the box from what seemed to be minimal contact.
The referee pointed to the penalty spot and Eto’o easily opened his account in Italian soccer.
He should have had a second on 67 minutes when Milito teed him up inside the box, but with only goalkeeper Jean-Francois Gillet to beat the former Barcelona man dragged his shot hopelessly wide.
They were made to pay for that on 74 minutes following a defensive blunder from Lucio, who charged out of position to try to make an interception, only to leave a gaping hole for Kutuzov to shoot past Cesar.
It should have been worse for the champions as Bari substitute Emmauel Rivas fired over the bar deep into injury-time with only Cesar to beat.
In Turin, Iaquinta gave Juventus an 11th minute lead against Chievo when he rose highest to brilliantly head home a free-kick from debutant Diego.
Iaquinta almost scored a second with a close-range header from an Amauri cross, but Stefano Sorrentino made an instinctive save with his legs.
Amauri came closest in the second half to adding a second, but his shot came back off the post.
In other games, Parma were denied a winning return to Serie A as an Antonio Di Natale brace earned Udinese a 2-2 draw.
Giuseppe Biava scored seven minutes from time to give Genoa a 3-2 victory over AS Roma.
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