Five days on from Italy's aborted Euro 2012 qualifier against Serbia, there were plenty of reminders of that night's events at Genoa's Stadio Luigi Ferraris. Some were subtle, like the increased police presence for Sampdoria's game against Fiorentina or the hundreds of tiny plastic clips used to repair the netting above the away fans' enclosure. Others were less so, like the enormous effigy of the Serbian hooligan ringleader held up by the home support.

But while Samp's fans made the most of this opportunity to lay into the interior minister Roberto Maroni – their banners sending up the fact that rules banning loudspeakers and drums had failed to stop the Serbia fans bringing in wire-cutters, fireworks and worse – we had already been reminded in Sunday's early kick-off that Italian football, too, has its problem supporters. Barely three minutes had passed of Inter's game at Cagliari when the referee Paolo Tagliavento brought it to a halt following racist chants from the home crowd.

Only a minority of fans had been involved in the abuse, but they certainly made themselves heard. As Tagliavento stood with the ball under his arm in the centre circle, the stadium's PA warned three times that the game would be abandoned altogether if the chants continued. Eventually, after a delay of several minutes, the perpetrators' cries gave way to a steady whistle and the game resumed.

Samuel Eto'o, the primary target, has long been unpopular in Sardinia. In 2002 he fathered a daughter, Annie, by a Sardinian woman but refused to accept the child was his until a court proved his paternity with a DNA test two years later. But however people choose to view those events, they cannot be used to justify racism. In any case, abuse was also directed at Maicon and Jonathan Biabiany, and last year Mario Balotelli and Juventus' Mohamed Sissoko were both targeted at the Stadio Sant'Elia.

In 2006 Eto'o famously attempted to leave the pitch after being abused during a game for Barcelona against Real Zaragoza, but here he stood patiently, hand on hip, waiting for the game to resume. "Score a goal against racism," ran the famous late-90s slogan in Italy and on this occasion Eto'o took the instruction literally. In the 39th minute he tamed a bouncing ball on the edge of the D, wrongfooted the defender Davide Astori, then struck a perfect left-footed drive into the bottom corner of the net.

The strike was both breathtaking and decisive. Cagliari had played out goalless draws in four of their first six league games and, but for Eto'o's intervention, this would likely have been a fifth such result. With Diego Milito and Goran Pandev out Eto'o found himself playing alongside the inexperienced Biabiany and Coutinho up front. Inter hoarded possession but, as Luigi Garlando put it in Gazzetta, "their speed of movement was akin to a python digesting a bull".

If anything, Cagliari had the better chances, Júlio César making a fine double-save in the second half to deny Nenê and Alessandro Matri, before the home side hit the bar late on. With Maicon and Wesley Sneijder out of form, Tottenham may fancy their chances at San Siro on Wednesday but they will have to find a way to contain Eto'o. Even with others struggling around him, the striker now has 12 goals in all competitions (including the pre-season Supercoppa) and Inter have won six of the seven games in which he has scored.

Such dependency on one player, clearly, is unhealthy for a team with ambitions such as Inter's, and with Rafael Benítez calling for reinforcements in January it was only a matter of time before someone mooted a move for Wayne Rooney. Such talk is to be taken with a huge grain of salt, especially given the stance of the president Massimo Moratti. "When we were dependent on [Zlatan] Ibrahimovic we won two Scudetti," he mused. "So I'm not unhappy at all."

The win was enough to briefly take Inter top, alongside Milan, who won 3-1 at home to Chievo on Saturday afternoon. Both would be passed by Lazio before the end of the weekend, however, as the Biancocelesti won 2-0 at Bari. "The lads told me we still need 24 points to secure safety," joked the Lazio manager Edy Reja. At this rate it won't take them very long.

Divine Del Piero

It's not often that the scorer of the fourth goal in a four-goal win gets to hog all the headlines for himself, but Alessandro Del Piero earned that honour with the strike against Lecce that brought him level with Juventus' all-time leading goalscorer Giampiero Boniperti on 178 Serie A goals. "I am not a liar and will tell you straight away that it annoyed me a bit, but the fact that it is you, that I have known you since you were a little boy and that I brought you to Juve gives me satisfaction," Boniperti wrote in an open letter published by Gazzetta dello Sport.

Boniperti went on to detail all the reasons why his record is more impressive – he quit when he was 32, took only five penalties in his career, and played at a time when any goal that deflected off a defender would go down as an own goal in Italy, even if it had been on target – though Del Piero may counter that he reached the landmark in 429 games to Boniperti's 443, and at a time when fewer goals are scored.

Del Piero, who moves up to joint 10th on the list of Serie A's all-time goalscorers, will almost certainly go on to score more, though his role at Juventus is being gradually reduced. At 35 he is no longer the key man in this side and yesterday he was only on the pitch for the game's final 12 minutes. That was more than enough.

Talking points

• Before we move on from Juventus, it may pain Liverpool fans to note that Alberto Aquilani scored the Old Lady's first against Lecce, as well as putting in an all-round performance that may just remind people why Benítez thought he may be worth €20m (£17.5m) in the first place. The Juventus manager Gigi Del Neri announced the midfielder as the first name on his team-sheet on Saturday, saying Aquilani had greater technical ability than any other central midfielder available to him. Now, if he can just stay fit for two minutes ...

• Lazio may be top but the most impressive performance this weekend was arguably from Palermo, 4-1 winners at home to Bologna. Anyone who has been following Serie A in the past 12 months should know by now what a talent Javier Pastore is but, even by his standards, the opener on Sunday was glorious. Pastore has a new partner in crime this season, though, and Josip Ilicic followed up with a strike almost as good seven minutes later. A player who cost just €2.2m from Maribor in the summer, he already looks like a staggeringly good piece of business. After winning just one of their first six games in all competitions, Palermo have recovered to take four of the last five. With Pastore and Ilicic – sitting deep either side of a lone striker in Delio Rossi's 4-3-2-1 – in this sort of form, they have the look of a side that could challenge for a Champions League spot.

• Milan looked for a short while like they might blow it in the second half, but in the early running were as impressive as they have been all season. The combination of a fit-again Alexandre Pato alongside Ibrahimovic at the top of a 4-3-1-2 (with Ronaldinho in behind), looks very promising. Robinho got his first goal too after coming off the bench, though he sullied it slightly with a gratuitous show of badge-kissing afterwards.

• The papers are already speculating about potential successors to Sinisa Mihajlovic after his Fiorentina team came undone in Genoa, giving up two goals in two minutes as they blew a 1-0 lead late in the second half. Dunga and Leonardo are the most common suggestions.

Results Bari 0-2 Lazio, Brescia 0-1 Udinese, Cagliari 0-1 Inter, Catania 1-1 Napoli, Cesena 1-1 Parma, Juventus 4-0 Lecce, Milan 3-1 Chievo, Palermo 4-1 Bologna, Roma 2-1 Genoa, Sampdoria 2-1 Fiorentina.

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