Inter Milan did enough at the San Siro against Fiorentina, going ahead 2-0 early thanks to Diego Milito and Antonio Cassano and then surviving the inevitable purple storm. They were helped, significantly, by Viola defender Gonzalo Rodriguez, who contrived to hand the hosts a 17th minute penalty and then got himself sent off in the second half. Despite a goal from Romulo, finding a way back into the competition simply proved too much for Vincenzo Montella and company.
Inter controlled the early stages of the match, limiting their guests to rather ineffective counterattacks and pushing them deep into their own half and forcing a series of corners. One of those corners very nearly led to the opener, with Esteban Cambiasso shaping for a brilliant volley from the edge of the box only to see his effort fizz inches wide. Not to worry for the hosts, however -- they'd soon be ahead anyway.
Fiorentina complained bitterly when Gonzalo Rodriguez was adjudged to have used his arm to block a cross from Javier Zanetti, but the Antonio Giannoccaro was having none of it, waving off their protests and pointing straight to the spot. Milito was on hand to take the penalty, hitting the ball hard enough that Emiliano Viviano had no chance at all despite guessing the right way. Less than twenty minutes into the match, Inter were up 1-0.
It was very nearly two in two minutes. Cassano played a clever pass into Milito, lurking with intent in the box, and the striker showed some quick thinking and a deft touch to lift the ball over Rodriguez (who wasn't having his best spell of the match) and slam a shot against the crossbar so hard that the ricochet off Coutinho nearly ended up in the back of the net. Fortunately for the Viola, the bounce ended up going straight to Viviano.
Apparently that scare was enough to spur the visitors into action, because Fiorentina began pressing in earnest for an equaliser. Samir Handanovic was called into action from a Adem Ljajic free kick, tipping the ball wide for a corner at full stretch, and he had to be alert to smother a Manuel Pasqual cross as Stevan Jovetic lurked with intent. The Inter defence was clearly scared of the Montenegrin, with Walter Samuel and Andrea Ranocchia earning bookings in quick succession for fouls on the forward, and with the Viola pressing they'd surely score next.
Cassano had other ideas. Inter hit their guests on the transition, with Cambiasso drawing out the centre backs with a clever run down the middle. He was then able to sell a dummy on a throughball from Ranocchia, allowing Cassano to run in with acres of space on the left. One on one against Viviano, the Italy international made no mistake, finishing crisply at the far post to make it 2-0.
Fiorentina showed no signs of capitulation, however, and the Nerazzurri defence was called into action repeatedly between the Cassano goal and the end of the first half. Almost inevitably, it was breached. David Pizarro was the key, picking out the unchecked run of Romulo, and the midfielder did his part by guiding a free header past Handanovic to halve the deficit.
With an action-packed first half we might have expected more from the second, but unfortunately for the visitors Rodriguez made yet another error, scything down Inter left back Yuto Nagotomo near the corner flag and in full view of the referee. Having already been booked, he had to go, and Giannoccaro duly reached into his back pocket for the red card.
That, more or less, marked the end of this one as a competitive fixture. Fiorentina still tried to get forward, but didn't have much luck with a packed Inter defence, and while the hosts weren't necessarily comfortable with a one goal lead, they were more than happy to keep their opponents pinned in their own half and taking the odd crack at goal. Despite the introduction of Luca Toni, Inter always looked more likely to score, and Viviano was forced into a very good save from a Milito effort with fifteen minutes left on the clock.
As it turned out, that save didn't matter. Inter might not have been able to hold out against an 11-man Fiorentina, but that's not what was in front of them, and they repelled whatever the visitors were able to throw at them in the final stages without much in the way of problems. The win takes them up to 12 points, four behind the leaders and level with Lazio. The visitors, meanwhile, missed an opportunity to separate themselves from the likes of Catania and Roma -- but a 2-1 loss at the San Siro, especially when playing most of the second half with ten men, isn't exactly the worst performance in the world.