Nagamoto gives Inter important win: Serie A
Inter Milan's revival gathered pace on Tuesday with a 1-0 win at Genoa that moved the club into the top half of the Serie A table.
However, the entertainment of the night was to be found in Sicily, where Siena progressed to the quarterfinals of the Italian Cup by beating Palermo on 3-0 penalties following a thrilling 4-4 draw.
Josip Ilicic scored a hat trick for cup holder Palermo, including two penalties, but missed his spot-kick in the shootout.
In Genoa, Japanese international Yuto Nagatomo headed the winner in the 67th minute, though the victory margin would have been greater were it not for a glaring error by misfiring striker Diego Milito.
It was Milito's first game against Genoa, where he spent two and a half highly prolific seasons. The Argentine left in 2009 to join Inter.
Genoa almost levelled in the closing stages but keeper Julio Cesar pulled off a stunning save to deny Miguel Veloso.
Inter's fourth league win in five matches leaves it level on points with sixth-place Palermo. It is still 10 points behind Serie A leaders Juventus and Udinese.
"It was a good game against a team which was very defensive and had its first shot after 80 minutes and then tried everything in the closing stages," Inter coach Claudio Ranieri said.
"It's a little step but it's a good one. It was important to get this result after the win against Fiorentina at the weekend."
There was more good news for Inter as Diego Forlan returned to action, two months after injuring his leg in a World Cup qualifying match against Paraguay. The Uruguay striker came off the bench 10 minutes from full time.
Inter's first real chance came in the 12th minute when Giampaolo Pazzini found Milito in space but his effort was deflected narrowly wide of the left post.
Goal opportunities were few and far between in a match littered with errors.
Andrea Poli was guilty of one of the most glaring of these on the half hour mark when he blasted the ball woefully wide, much to the amusement of the home fans.
Inter went even closer three minutes later. Genoa goalkeeper Sebastien Frey — who spent two seasons at Inter — did brilliantly to keep out Walter Samuel's header. The rebound fell to Samuel again and he poked the ball through to Milito, who shot straight at Frey from point-blank range.
"Milito is in great form," Ranieri said. "He's just lacking goals. But he does great work everywhere on the pitch, he links the attack with midfield and creates space.
"We'll have Forlan back properly soon and he has a lot of class too."
Genoa had the ball in the net in the 55th minute when Andreas Granqvist headed in Veloso's free kick but it was ruled out for offside.
"If they gave us that goal we could have won," Genoa coach Alberto Malesani said. "We have so much to complain about today. I don't understand how anyone can rule out a goal like that."
Inter took the lead when the diminutive Nagatomo rose above his marker to head home Ricardo Alvarez's free kick. It was the defender's second goal in as many games.
Genoa came agonizingly close to equalizing in stoppage time when first Marco Rossi saw his shot blocked and then Julio Cesar pulled off a fantastic stop to tip Veloso's effort from the rebound over the bar.
There were over four minutes of stoppage time after the match was paused when young Genoa substitute Alberto Marchiori fainted on the bench and had to be stretchered off.
In Sicily, Reginaldo opened the scoring in the 21st minute and Palermo levelled through Ilicic's first penalty of the night six minutes from halftime before Pablo Andres Gonzalez immediately restored Siena's lead.
Ilicic equalized again seconds after the interval before Reginaldo scored his second on the hour mark. The teams were level at the end of normal time after Ilic completed his hat-trick in stoppage time.
Palermo took the lead for the first time in the match eight minutes into extra time through substitute Nicolas Bertolo but Angelo equalized two minutes later.
Gonzalez, Emanuele Pesoli and Angelo all scored for Siena in the shootout, while Mauro Bollino and Mauro Cetto saw their spot-kicks saved by Siena goalkeeper Gianluca Pegolo and Ilicic missed.