The Serie A title race will go down to the final day after Inter picked up a 3-1 away victory over relegation-threatened Cagliari on Sunday night.
The win – which came courtesy of a Matteo Darmian header and Lautaro Martinez brace – means the two Milan clubs will enter next weekend’s fixtures separated by two points in first and second respectively.
Inter forced Alessio Cragno into action inside three minutes with soon-to-be out-of-contract Ivan Perisic unleashing a drive from the edge of the box.
This early warning shot would be a sign of things to come as a few moments later Milan Skriniar forced Hakan Calhanoglu’s free kick over the line in unorthodox fashion. However, following a VAR review, the strike was ruled out for handball.
Inter were almost made to rue these near misses when the ball fell kindly to Razvan Marin, but the Cagliari midfielder could not convert.
The visitors soon returned to the ascendency and eventually got their goal. The impressive Perisic was the architect, hanging the ball up for Darmian to head home at the back post.
The Nerazzurri were inches away from making it 2-0 on the stroke of half-time too. Lautaro Martinez swivelled in the box before aiming a shot through Luca Ceppitelli’s legs and onto the post.
Early in the second period, Martinez did have the ball in the back of the net, spinning in behind to meet Nicolo Barella’s long ball and finishing cooly.
Inter’s breathing room did not last long, though. Just three minutes later Charalampos Lykogiannis let off a long-ranged cracker which took a slight deflection off Skriniar and flew past Samir Handanovic.
Substitute Keita Balde then slipped behind the Inter defence, but Handanovic was on hand to snuff out the danger and force the forward to shoot well over.
As the game edged towards its conclusion Inter looked nervy, but they still managed to carve out chances here and there. Perisic went close, putting a header the wrong side of the post after a good cross from Denzel Dumfries.
The tension subsided six minutes from time when Martinez put the game beyond doubt, finishing off a free-flowing move with a clever finish.
The win sets up a mouth-watering final day in Serie A. Victory for AC Milan over Sassuolo would earn them the title. But if Inter beat Sampdoria, a draw would not be enough due to the Nerazzurri’s far superior goal difference.
Here are your player ratings…
Perisic and Darmian were both excellent / ALBERTO PIZZOLI/GettyImages
Samir Handanovic (GK) – 6/10 – Deceived by the deflection for Cagliari’s goal. Stayed alert despite his limited involvement.
Milan Skriniar (CB) – 6/10 – Unfortunate to have a rare goal ruled out and even more unfortunate to deflect Lykogiannis’ effort past his goalkeeper. Committed quite a few fouls.
Stefan de Vrij (CB) – 7/10 – The start of so many Inter attacks. Such an accomplished passer and so composed.
Alessandro Bastoni (CB) – 6/10 – Pushed forward when he got the chance, although his delivery was not always pinpoint.
Matteo Darmian (RWB) – 8/10 – Had a great game before being subbed just before the hour. Scored and defended superbly.
Nicolo Barella (CM) – 7/10 – Set up Martinez’s goal with some quick thinking and an expertly-weighted pass.
Marcelo Brozovic (CM) – 7/10 – Provides this team with real balance, breaking up play and finding their wide players with ease.
Hakan Calhanoglu (CM) – 7/10 – Whipped in a few dangerous crosses and set pieces. Sometimes a bit wasteful on the ball.
Ivan Perisic (LWB) – 8/10 – A constant source of creativity, Cagliari could not live with him. Set up the opener.
Edin Dzeko (ST) – 5/10 – A bit static at times, particularly as the game wore on.
Lautaro Martinez (ST) – 9/10 – Should have scored late in the first half but hit the post. Made up for that with a poacher’s goal early in the second. Always on the move and took his second goal superbly.
SUB: Denzel Dumfries (RWB) – 7/10 – Continued Darmian’s threat down the right.
SUB: Roberto Gagliardini (CM) – 7/10 – Set up the clincher with a great pass.
SUB: Danilo D’Ambrosio (CB) – 6/10.
SUB: Joaquin Correa (ST) – 6/10.
SUB: Alexis Sanchez (ST) – N/A.
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