A rare goal for Matteo Darmian ended Cagliari's stubborn resistance and ensured Inter Milan continue their remorseless drive to the Serie A title.
Just minutes after coming on as substitute, Achraf Hakimi exchanged passes with Romelu Lukaku and drove towards the by-line before driving a ball across goal which the former Manchester United full-back Darmian slid in to turn home.
The goal was harsh on Cagliari's stubborn defence and goalkeeper Guglielmo Vicario who made a number of stops after coming in for Alessio Cragno who contracted Covid-19 on international duty.
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The result leaves Inter 11 points clear at the top of Serie A with just eight games remaining, while Cagliari are five points adrift of safety having played a game more than fourth-bottom Torino.
Talking point – Not pretty but Conte won’t care
With Inter not having to worry about Europe, it was surprising that Lautaro Martinez and Achraf Hakimi were rested and with Alexis Sanchez in wretched form it appeared a move that could have backfired.
Antonio Conte has come in for some criticism after his side possessed just 30% of the ball in their victory over Saussalo, which he shrugged off quoting his Inter predecessor Hector Cuper: “Possession of the ball does not mean possession of the sport”.
They had 53% of the ball against Cagliari, but again were found wanting for ideas.
With Inter about to enjoy their first scudetto in 11 years fans of the nerazzuri will not care about the negative style of play – which may be overstated as they will end the season with more goals than Juventus’ winning side has managed in most recent seasons.
They will hope that he can follow in the footsteps of another past derided negative coach at Inter, Jose Mourinho, who won the Champions League beating Barcelona en route with just 14% of the ball.
Man of the match – Guglielmo Vicario (Cagliari)
Being a reserve keeper is a thankless task, especially when behind a highly-touted stopped like Alessio Cragno who he has no chance of usurping in normal circumstances.
Handed the gloves after Cragno’s ailment de jour, Vicario was superb, keeping out numerous efforts, especially from Christian Eriksen.
You would think he will have at least one more game to show his talents and may well play himself into a first-choice position elsewhere in the process, or at worst, be Cagliari’s number one if they are relegated and their first-choice departs.
Inter: Handanovic 6; Skriniar 7, de Vrij 8, Bastoni 6; Darmian 7, Sensi 7, Brozovic 6, Eriksen 7, Young 5; Lukaku 6, Sanchez 4. Subs: Martinez 6, Hakimi 7, Gagliardini 6, Vecino 6, D’Ambrosio 6.
Cagliari: Vicario 8*; Rugani 6, Godin 7, Carboni 7; Nandez 6, Marin 7, Nainggolan 7, Duncan 6, Zappa 7; Pavoletti 6, Joao Pedro 6. Subs. Cerri 5, Pereiro 5, Asamoah 6, Simeone 5
11’ Eriksen curls a shot from long range forcing a good stop from Vicario. Will give the reserve keeper some confidence that.
18’ OFFSIDE GOAL! Lukaku slips a ball through to Sanchez who slots the ball into the roof of the net, but he is clearly offside.
69’ Off the bar! De Vrij meets Eriksen's corner with a firm header that comes back off the crossbar.
77’ GOAL FOR INTER! Darmian slides in to score from close range after Hakimi got to the opposite by-line and drove the ball across the goal.
11 - The number of consecutive Serie A wins for Inter Milan. The number of points they are clear at the top. The number of years since they won Serie A.
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