|Unsung hero: A second-half header from Nagatomo gave Inter crucial points in their climb up the Serie A ladder [AFP]|
Japan full-back Yuto Nagatomo scored the only goal of the game as Inter Milan moved up to seventh in Italy’s Serie A table with a 1-0 win at Genoa on Tuesday.
Nagatomo scored for the second match in a row having also netted in the 2-0 weekend win over Fiorentina.
It was the 25-year-old’s fourth goal for Inter since joining the club in January and what’s more it was a rare header for the former Cesena and FC Tokyo player, who stands at just five feet, seven inches tall.
He was also in the right place in injury time to head a shot from Marco Rossi off the line and help Inter hold onto the three points.
It was just reward for one of the nerazzurri’s unsung heros this season.
Nagatomo has been a near ever-present in this campaign and has made the left-back slot his own.
For Inter it was their fourth win in the last five games and they are now just 10 points behind leaders Juventus and at least back in the European qualification picture.
Inter coach Claudio Ranieri opted to pair Diego Milito and Giampaolo Pazzini up front together with the returning Diego Forlan given a place on the bench.
Ranieri also kept faith with youngster Marco Faraoni and gave Andrea Poli, who was previously at Genoa’s city rivals Sampdoria, a debut.
In a first half of few chances Milito linked up with Pazzini but Sebastien Frey tipped his shot from outside the box around the post.
The best chance came just after the half hour mark when Walter Samuel met a corner with a bullet header but Frey made an instinctive save and was up quickly to clutch at Milito’s rushed follow-up.
Genoa had the ball in the net on 56 minutes but Andreas Granqvist’s header from Miguel Veloso’s left-wing free-kick was controversially ruled out for the most marginal of offsides.
Inter went in front on 67 minutes as Ricardo Alvarez, a half-time substitute, swung over a cross from the right and Nagatomo, the smallest man on the pitch, snuck up at the back post to guide home a header from six yards.
Alvarez almost sealed the three points when he let fly from 25 yards but between Frey and the post, the ball was kept out of the goal.
Moments later Rossi had Genoa’s best chance so far but his shot from 20 yards took a slight deflection and flew over.
Forlan came on near the end and had a left foot effort from an angle that Frey dealt with comfortably.
But then in injury time Nagatomo threw himself in front of a Rossi effort and goalkeeper Julio Cesar then acrobatically tipped over Veloso’s follow-up in a frantic finale.
Pazzini still had a chance to make the points safe on the counter but Frey came to his side’s rescue.