It was fourth against first and Jose Mourinho’s men were fresh from conquering Chelsea, but their lead at the top of the Serie A table was cut to one point. The Nerazzurri had managed just six points from five games and lost 3-1 in Sicily to Catania last week. Mario Balotelli was frozen out, Sulley Muntari suspended and Cristian Chivu injured. Palermo lost captain Fabio Liverani, so Fabio Simplicio stepped in, but had won seven consecutive home matches and were unbeaten in 22 here.
Diego Milito had the first chance after seven minutes, as a deflected Samuel Eto’o pass sent him free to thump the near post from the tightest of angles.
A sliding Federico Balzaretti tackle blocked off Eto’o and from the resulting corner Cesare Bovo gave away a penalty for hauling down Lucio by the arm and shirt. Milito stepped up and converted with a powerful finish under the bar.
Javier Pastore blasted high from distance, but Inter were dominating and Milito nodded Esteban Cambiasso’s free kick over.
Palermo drew level with a well-worked team move. Fabrizio Miccoli’s inspired slide-rule pass split the defence in two and freed Edinson Cavani for an angled drive in at the near post.
Salvatore Sirigu smothered Dejan Stankovic’s effort, while at the other end Pastore’s angled drive was blocked. Douglas Maicon got his head to a smart Wesley Sneijder ball over the top, but nodded wide from close range.
Palermo went so close when Miccoli’s cross was deflected into the path of Simplicio, who at full stretch couldn’t make the decisive contact as he came sliding in.
The Sicilians saw a lot more of the ball now and Miccoli’s daisy-cutter flashed across the face of goal.
After the restart Miccoli went on a blazing counter from Inter’s own corner, but the cross took a nick off Maicon’s head to put off Cavani’s free header at the back post.
Simplicio stretched too far in the tackle and was stretchered off to make way for Nicols Bertolo. Jose Mourinho made a double tactical change to adopt the line-up of Stamford Bridge with Thiago Motta and Goran Pandev replacing Santon and Stankovic, so Javier Zanetti moved to left-back.
Cavani blasted over on the counter, but Walter Samuel rose above the crowd to nod inches wide of the upright from a Cambiasso corner kick.
Palermo now left Inter the initiative in order to strike with dangerous counter-attacks. Cavani flashed a blockbuster wide from 25 metres. The Rosanero protested on 81 minutes when Samuel appeared to tug Cavani’s shirt off the ball to take him out of another rapid counter.
Cambiasso blasted over, but Inter were fortunate to block a counter-attack with two players against two. Cavani was clear on goal when Samuel slipped in front of him and managed to clear from the ground, as the Uruguayan practically walked into his prone body.
Sirigu plucked Maicon’s chip out of the air and in stoppages Julio Cesar had his palms stung by a rocket of a Miccoli free kick aimed at the near post.