Milan: Inter Milan coach Walter Mazzarri was facing increased calls for his sacking on Sunday after a 2-0 defeat to Parma that prompted a storm on social media involving the wife of former Inter marksman Antonio Cassano.
Inter succumbed to their third defeat in 10 games on Saturday when former Juventus midfielder Paolo De Ceglie struck in either half to move Roberto Donadoni`s strugglers off the foot of the table.
As Donadoni hailed his team`s "pride and determination", Mazzarri was left lamenting another mediocre performance that left Inter in ninth spot but in danger of falling below mid-table by the end of the weekend fixtures.
Although the Nerazzurri are only three points off third-placed Napoli in the last Champions League qualifying spot, the 53-year-old handler admitted his players have hit a mental stumbling block.
"If there`s anything I can say it`s that we just can`t make that definitive step up in quality. That`s something we`re working on," Mazzarri said after the game.
Worryingly, Mazzarri said Inter`s heads dropped as early as the fifth minute when De Ceglie hit Parma`s opener.
"That first chance changed the result and it knocked our confidence too," added Mazzarri. "If we want to go back to challenging at the top we need to improve mentally."
The pain of defeat deepened after the game, according to reports, when Parma striker Cassano went to the visitors` dressing room to goad his former teammates.
Cassano, who also played under Mazzarri at Sampdoria, is said to have quit Inter after Mazzarri went back on a promise to make him the club`s number one striker after taking over at the start of last season.
La Gazzetta dello Sport on Saturday quoted Cassano as saying: "Before he signed (for Inter) he told me I would be the club`s number one (striker).
"Then when he signed he told me I would be the number one candidate for going home and was no longer part of his plans."
The incident has obviously not been forgotten. On Saturday night Cassano`s wife Carolina took to Twitter to claim that Mazzarri was the "donkey who made Antonio leave" Inter.
She added: "If you live by the sword, you die by the sword. Goodnight."
Club president Erick Thohir has so far given his backing to Mazzarri amid speculation that Roberto Mancini could return to the San Siro to help salvage the club`s push for a place in the Champions League next season.
Inter have yet to win three consecutive games under Mazzarri, who has come under increasing pressure from disgruntled fans on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.
Inter`s next challenge is a Group F Europa League fixture away Saint Etienne, who held the ailing Italian giants to a scoreless draw last time out.
A win away in France on Thursday would virtually secure qualification to the next round.
Inter were whistled off the park by a small travelling party of supporters in Parma on Saturday but captain Andrea Ranocchia called the incident "character-building".
"Obviously it`s easier to play when you`re being applauded but sometimes the whistles help you to react," he said.