A Lautaro Martinez brace ensured Inter will take the Serie A title race to the final day of the season as the Nerazzurri secured a tense 3-1 win over Cagliari.
Having seen leaders Milan beat Atalanta 2-0 earlier on Sunday, the Nerazzurri knew only a win in Sardinia would keep their hopes of a second consecutive title alive.
Martinez scored twice to add to Matteo Darmian’s opener as Inter went about doing just that, although they had to work for the victory after Charalampos Lykogiannis halved the arrears in the second half.
Simone Inzaghi’s men have it all to do on the final day, however, needing to beat Sampdoria and hope Milan lose at Sassuolo to be crowned champions.
Ivan Perisic forced Alessio Cragno into an early save with a fierce strike before Samir Handanovic got down to his right to stop Lykogiannis’ goal-bound effort during a lively start.
Inter were denied a 10th-minute opener when Milan Skriniar was adjudged to have bundled home a right-wing free-kick with his arm, but the Nerazzurri hit the front after 25 minutes when Darmian headed Perisic’s fine cross into the top-left corner.
Martinez twice went close to doubling Inter’s lead at the end of an entertaining first half, striking the post with a sublime left-footed volley before drawing a close-range stop from Cragno.
The Argentine finally got his goal after 51 minutes, bringing down Nicolo Barella’s long ball before firing home, only for Lykogiannis to halve the arrears two minutes later with a deflected long-range effort.
20 – Lautaro Martínez became the sixth player in Inter’s history to score 20 goals in a single Serie A season before turning 25, after Giuseppe Meazza, Sandro Mazzola, Antonio Angelillo, Ronaldo and Mauro Icardi. Stars.#CagliariInter pic.twitter.com/TNXSdS34FO
— OptaPaolo (@OptaPaolo) May 15, 2022
But Martinez was not done there, producing a brilliant lobbed finish from Roberto Gagliardini’s pass to clinch his brace, putting Milan’s celebrations on ice and deepening the hosts’ relegation fears.
What does it mean? Inter take thrilling title race to the final day
Inzaghi’s men ensured an absorbing Serie A title race will be decided on the final day of the season with their win, although they are relying on Sassuolo to complete a league double over Milan to give them a chance of glory.
Inter have now won seven of their last eight league games, losing the other, allowing them to keep pace with a Rossoneri side unbeaten in 15 Serie A matches (10 wins, five draws).
Outstanding Martinez passes 20-goal mark
Martinez’s second-half brace proved decisive as the Argentina ace hit 21 league goals in what has been a superb individual campaign.
He is now just the sixth player in Inter’s history to reach 20 goals in a Serie A season before turning 25, after Giuseppe Meazza, Sandro Mazzola, Antonio Angelillo, Ronaldo, and Mauro Icardi.
Cup hero contributes once more
Having scored an extra-time brace to fire Inter to a Coppa Italia final win over Juventus on Wednesday, Perisic was on top form again as the Nerazzurri kept their double hopes intact.
As well as scoring seven Serie A goals, the Croatian has registered seven league assists after teeing up Darmian’s opener, with only Hakan Calhanoglu (11) and Barella (10) recording more for Inter this term.
Key Opta Facts:
– Inter have earned 39 Serie A points on the road this season, as many as in the previous term, which was their third-best performance in a single campaign (49 points in 2006-07 and 43 in 2019-20).
– Cagliari have ended a Serie A campaign with only three home wins for the second time in their history, after the 1999-2000 season.
– Martínez has scored the most goals in Serie A since the start of March (10).
Inter host Sampdoria in their final game of the season next Sunday, requiring a win – and a Milan defeat at Sassuolo – to retain their title. Cagliari, meanwhile, need a win over relegated Venezia on the same day to have any chance of survival.
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