Inter fell to their fourth defeat in the last five rounds, picking up more injuries and angry over a controversial Mauricio Pinilla penalty as Cagliari won 2-0 on neutral turf.
This game was hosted by the Stadio Nereo Rocco in Trieste, as the on-going problems with the Is Arenas continue.
The Nerazzurri injury crisis deteriorated with Antonio Cassano out for a month, joining Rodrigo Palacio, Diego Milito, Cristian Chivu, Dejan Stankovic, Luca Castellazzi, Gaby Mudingayi, Joel Obi and Ibrahima Mbaye, while they are also preparing for Wednesday’s Coppa Italia semi-final against Roma. Tommaso Rocchi was the only available striker with support from Ricky Alvarez, while Cagliari welcomed back Andrea Cossu and Nicola Murru from suspension, but Radja Nainggolan sat out a ban.
Cagliari were forced to make a substitution after only seven minutes, as Cossu went off with a muscular problem to make way for Matias Cabrera.
Esteban Cambiasso thought he had given Inter the lead on 14 minutes when he got past the on-rushing goalkeeper with a delicate chip, but it thumped the upright of an open goal.
Inter protested after Rocchi went down under pressure from Daniele Dessena on the edge of the box, but the referee waved play on. Juan Jesus volleyed just wide after a poor clearance, but the Sardinians went very close when Murru rolled across for Victor Ibarbo, who turned wide from six yards under pressure from Alvaro Pereira. A fierce Ricky Alvarez attempt was just over the bar.
Rocchi spun round to run at the defence and the powerful riding drive was palmed out from under the crossbar by Michael Agazzi. Walter Gargano became the latest Inter player to pick up a muscular injury.
Dessena also had penalty appeals when he went down under pressure from behind, while Agazzi turned a Guarin effort out for a corner.
Victor Ibarbo went on the counter from an Inter corner and took everyone on himself, eventually losing control of the ball inside the penalty area under a Zdravko Kuzmanovic tackle.
Alvarez fired just wide, but there was huge controversy as Cagliari took the lead. The referee pointed to the spot when Mauricio Pinilla fell over Matias Silvestre’s leg, though replays suggest contact was minimal and he was looking for it too. Nonetheless, Pinilla converted the penalty to put the Sardinians in front.
Samir Handanovic smothered an Albin Ekdal header and Rocchi spun round from a corner to hit the side-netting. Yet more bad news for Inter, as Yuto Nagatomo came off the bench and picked up another injury, limping off eight minutes later.
Cagliari doubled their advantage and there were no doubts about this one, as the Inter defence was caught ball-watching. Pinilla completed a give-and-go in the box to prod past Handanovic from close range. The passing had torn the Nerazzurri defence apart.
The visitors were clearly without confidence and Ibarbo hit the crossbar after another rapid run.