Sunday, 18 May 2008

Reaction: Title for "true Inter fans"

Inter coach Roberto Mancini dedicated the Scudetto to the "true fans" after his side clinched the title at the third time of asking thanks to a dramatic 2-0 win over Parma.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic sprang from the bench to score twice in the second half to send Parma into Serie B and ensure Inter were crowned champions of Italy for the 16th time.

It brought a positive end to a difficult year for Mancini, who tendered his resignation after seeing his side get knocked out of the Champions League only to be talked into changing his mind by President Massimo Moratti.

Mancini had blamed the negative media coverage of his side for his hasty decision and on Sunday, he gave the press the cold shoulder again.

"This is for true Inter fans and only the true Inter fans," he said as he left the Stadio Ennio Tardini without further comment, leaving Moratti to do the talking.

"I am absolutely delighted. The lads have thoroughly deserved to win an extremely tough title," said the President.

"The team was fantastic and Mancini gave them the confidence to win the game. We have won the league even though the whole of Italy was against us."

Inter closed off relations with the press out of protest at a perceived bias against them and for Dejan Stankovic, who spoke on behalf of the squad, this had spurred them on to glory.

"It is better to win like this with all the rain and Parma needing to win," he said. "It was very hard, especially the last month and a half when people have been against us and inventing anything to spite us, but we are the strongest.

"I pay compliments to Roma, who have played excellent football and believed in it to the end, but it is no coincidence that Inter have been champions two years running."

In fact, it was Inter and Mancini's third consecutive Scudetto, including the one awarded to them in 2006 when Juventus and AC Milan were caught up in the Calciopoli scandal.

Yet it was the hardest with Roma providing a tough opponent to the bitter end, narrowing a six-point deficit to actually go ahead on paper for 40 minutes this afternoon.

The Nerazzurri had failed in their previous two games to seal the title, losing to AC Milan in the derby and only drawing at home to Siena last weekend.

And with 50 minutes of the game played, when Ibrahimovic entered the field, they found themselves one point behind Roma, who were leading 1-0 at Catania. But the Sweden striker, who had not played since picking up a knock in the 2-1 defeat to Juventus on March 22, entered the field to play a decisive role.

Goals in the 62nd and 79th minutes earned the three points Inter needed to clinch the title and let the celebrations begin at one end of the field while the tears began flowing at the other.

Inter captain Javier Zanetti saluted Roma for their fighting spirit but declared his side were worthy of the Scudetto.

"We have to compliment Roma because they believed right until the end in the league title," said Zanetti. "With respect to last season, this year we have had to suffer a lot more.

"The plaudits must go to all the team because Inter have shown great coolness this week," said Zanetti.

"We had worries going into the game but we have proved that we are the strongest and the most important thing has been how the team has responded."

For Parma, it was the first relegation from Serie A since they climbed into the top flight in 1990.

"I would like to apologise to the fans because they have never abandoned us," said Parma President Tommaso Ghirardi. "Maybe we all underestimated things this season, but we will come back.

"I want us to take inspiration from the 90s, when we had a side which won more than people gave us credit for; a side which excelled itself with the desire to do well."

Source: PA

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