Any notions that preseason friendlies lack intensity and tenacity were quickly forgotten as Celtic and Inter served up a fiery 90 minutes in the second game of the Dublin Super Cup. Goals from Luc Castaignos and Giampolo Pazzini proved to be the difference between the sides.
Spurred on by the huge vocal Celtic support, the Scottish side went at their Italian counterparts from the off with Georgios Samaras going close with a header after only two minutes. A heavy tackle on Celtic defender Joe Ledley brought the first of many scuffles as the temperature of the game continued to bubble away.
But Milan silenced the crowd shortly after this. A fantastic move that began just inside the Celtic half saw Inter captain Dejan Stankovic and Goran Pandev link up. The latter then ran at the Celtic defence before he played in Luic Castaignons who rifled home at Zaluska’s near post.
The goal only served to intensify proceedings and soon after Inter’s Thiago Motta and Stankovic both went into referee Damien Hancock’s book.
Neil Lennon went with Samaras as the lone striker and it was a ploy that created plenty of scoring chances. He met a curling Charlie Mulgrew cross after 23 minutes with a brilliant goal bound header. Castellazzi did well to turn it behind for a corner.
Indeed the Glasgow side were the more creative of the two teams for large spells of the opening half. Samaras had another great chance ten minutes before the break. Again the Inter defence struggled to cope with Celtic’s wide play. When the ball was centred, Castellazzi pulled off a terrific double save – first from Samaras and then Mulgrew.
As the game neared half-time, there was time for some late drama. First Thiago Motta was sent off for a fairly innocuous kick on Scott Brown. But ten men Inter battled on and were rewarded in injury time when Pazzini beat Zaluska to a loose ball in the Celtic box and poked home the second.
The theme of over exuberant tackles continued into the second half with Scott Brown clattering into Faraoni before Faraoni and Cha Du-Ri faced off. Damien Hancock dished out the yellows.
By way of play there continued to be little between the sides though the introduction of Wesley Sneidjer and Samuel Eto’o at half time helped stabilise ten men Inter. Celtic made changes of their own and in an obvious sign of his intentions, Lennon introduced striker Anthony Stokes for the impressive defender Glenn Loovens.
Celtic used the extra man to their advantage in dominating possession but ultimately failed to create any real goal scoring chances for most of the half. The Scottish Cup champions concentrated a lot of their attacks down the wings and substitute Anthony Stokes appeared their most likely outlet to find a way back into the tie.
Celtic continued to dominate as the game drew to a close but it wasn’t to be. Stokes fired over deep in injury time for the Hoops before Charlie Mulgrew went agonisingly close with a free kick. But the Nerazzurri hung on to get their Dublin Super Cup campaign off to a winning start.
Inter Milan: Castellazzi; Santon (Biancheti, 79), Ranocchia (Caldirola, 86), Samuel; Stankovic (Mariga, 57), Pandev (Sneidjer, HT), Motta, Chivu, Nagatomo (Faraoni, 10); Castaignos (Sneidjer, HT), Pazzini
Subs not used: Orlandoni, Alvarez, Obi, Crisetig, Natalino, Ali Muntari
Booked: Stankovic, Faraoni
Sent off: Thiago Motta
Celtic FC: Zaluska; Loovens (Stokes, 60), Izaguerie, Cha Du-Ri (Matthews, 67), Ledley; Brown, Kayal, Wilson Mulgrew; Maloney (Hooper, 60), Samaras (McCourt, 76)
Subs not used: Cervi, Twardsik, Majstarovic, Wanyama, Murphy
Booked: Cha Du-Ri, Brown
Referee: Damien Hancock
ExtraTime.ie Man of the Match: Giampolo Pazzini
Sam joined Extratime for the 2011 season and is now the site's features editor. He is based in Dublin and covers all the clubs in the capital. He is also prone to the odd Drogheda game. If you would like to contact Sam, you can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.