Mateo Kovacic and new Capocannoniere Mauro Icardi scraped Inter’s 2-1 victory away to Cagliari, their third straight win.
The Nerazzurri remained thoroughly unpredictable, as on Thursday they fumbled a 2-0 lead to draw 3-3 with Celtic in stoppages. Andrea Ranocchia and Xherdan Shaqiri were rested, so Mateo Kovacic took a new role behind the strikers. Gianfranco Zola lost Albin Ekdal (who scored a hat-trick in the 4-1 victory at San Siro earlier this season) and Antonio Balzano.
Inter hadn’t won this fixture since 2010 when Rafa Benitez was still in charge, followed by two draws and a defeat.
An audacious early Fredy Guarin overhead kick went wide, but Lukas Podolski horribly wasted when he went clear on goal and hesitated, giving up three different chances to shoot until he was eventually pushed out wide. The ex-Arsenal striker is lacking in confidence and it showed there.
Podolski glanced a header wide on Davide Santon’s cross, while Zeljko Brkic did well to narrow the angle on Mauro Icardi.
Brkic needed a great double save on Marcelo Brozovic and the Icardi follow-up, with help from Danilo Avelar.
Juan Pablo Carrizo, playing for the injured Samir Handanovic, fumbled a corner, but Cagliari were unable to take advantage.
The hosts came so close to taking the lead on 36 minutes. Paul-Jose M’Poku nutmegged Hugo Campagnaro and set up Duje Cop’s flick over Carrizo, but Santon performed a decisive goal-line clearance.
Icardi and Podolski headers went close, but the deadlock was broken at the dawn of the second half. It was a fine team move, as Kovacic’s back-heel flick sent Podolski down the left, Icardi’s control on the cross was charged down, so the Croatia international followed the action to blast under the bar from the edge of the box.
Godfred Donsah’s control and strike were well held by Carrizo, but Andrea Cossu failed to make the most of a Nemanja Vidic howler, ballooning over under pressure from the goalkeeper.
M’Poku robbed Juan Jesus on the touchline, sent Gary Medel sliding into nowhere with a divine dummy and then tried to nutmeg Carrizo, the ball getting stuck between the goalkeeper’s legs. From the resulting corner, Inter desperately scrambled clear.
Moments later Medel was caught in possession, but ex-Inter striker Samuele Longo side-footed straight at Carrizo one-on-one.
Cagliari paid for those wasted chances, as Icardi doubled the Nerazzurri’s lead with a wonderful solo effort. He controlled with his right foot, cut in past defenders to curl into the far top corner with his left. That was his 14th goal, making him joint Capocannoniere with Carlos Tevez.
It was Longo who got Cagliari back into the game, pouncing on a Juan Jesus error to smash his shot at the near post, where it squirmed past a surprised Carrizo. Longo thought it was his debut Serie A goal and he got it against his old club, but it is considered an own goal because it ricocheted in off Carrizo's back.
Inter threw away a 2-0 lead in 120 seconds against Celtic and almost repeated the trick here, but M’Poku’s strike only skimmed the base of the near stick. Then a Longo cross-shot bobbled across the six-yard box with nobody able to tap in, so Roberto Mancini moved to a five-man defence.
Campagnaro was booked for a foot so high he kicked M’Poku in the head and from the resulting touched-on free kick Carrizo saved from Daniele Conti.
With the last kick of the game, Hernanes unleashed a blockbuster that cannoned off the underside of the bar and bounced off the turf, but did not cross the line.
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