Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez enjoyed two goals each, but Sassuolo pushed Inter all the way to the final whistle in a 4-3 thriller.
Antonio Conte had to do without Stefano Sensi, Alexis Sanchez and Danilo D’Ambrosio, while resting Diego Godin, Kwadwo Asamoah and Matias Vecino. Sassuolo missed Rogerio, Medhi Bourabia, Vlad Chiriches, Giangiacomo Ferrari and Luca Mazzitelli, but opted for Italy Under-21 international Alessandro Tripaldelli at left-back.
There were touching scenes before the game, as children from the Sassuolo youth team released green and black balloons into the air in tribute to patron Giorgio Squinzi, who passed away just over two weeks ago. He had taken the club from Serie C all the way to the Europa League.
Inter have really struggled against Sassuolo in recent years, managing only one point from their last five meetings. However, they broke through within 65 seconds, as a corner came to Lautaro Martinez to curl a ferocious right-foot finish into the far top corner from just inside the box.
The Argentina international should’ve made it 2-0 on 12 minutes, but blasted wide from 10 yards after shrugging off Marlon.
Instead, Domenico Berardi drew Sassuolo level, as he burst away from Cristiano Biraghi down the right flank and drilled in off the inside of the far post from the tightest of angles with his weaker right foot. Naturally, the dedication was for Squinzi.
Lautaro Martinez had the ball in the back of the net for a second time on 27 minutes, meeting a cross at the back post, but it was disallowed for Romelu Lukaku’s push to stop a defender intercepting.
Sassuolo also had a goal ruled out, as Francesco Caputo slipped his finish past Samir Handanovic only after he was flagged offside.
Lukaku’s goal did count, as Federico Peluso was weak in his marking, allowing the Belgian to turn and fire in from eight yards to restore Inter’s lead on a Stefan de Vrij through ball.
Marcelo Brozovic blasted a free kick just wide, but Lautaro Martinez was unplayable and brought down by Marlon and Alfred Duncan for a penalty. Lukaku decided to take and sent Andrea Consigli the wrong way to open up a two-goal advantage on the stroke of half-time.
Bizarrely, just before the penalty was taken, play was interrupted by a pitch invasion via man with parachute, who was quickly taken away.
Marlon made another decisive block on Lautaro Martinez, as El Toro was unplayable, getting away from defenders to sting Consigli’s gloves.
Caputo fired over after a deflected Berardi free kick, while Candreva and Traore also forced saves before Muldur completely mistimed his tackle on Barella for another penalty, this one converted by Lautaro Martinez.
It still wasn’t over, as Sassuolo kept it interesting with substitute Filip Djuricic finding a gap inside the area and prodding into the far bottom corner for 4-2.
Valentino Lazaro was finally given his Serie A debut, but the Nerazzurri lost all momentum after that fourth goal and Lautaro Martinez’s substitution.
Sassuolo closed the gap again to 4-3 with a great solo effort from Jeremie Boga, who dribbled through defenders to place his delicate finish into the far bottom corner.
Suddenly, the momentum of the game had been transformed and Inter were pinned back into their own final third. Berardi’s volley on a corner was deflected off target by Marlon, but Antonio Conte’s men clung on with their fingernails and Milan Skriniar got his head to a Berardi cross before Boga.
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