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Lack of finish: Sassuolo wrench Inter Milan’s Champions League hopes

Rafinha tries to rally, but Nerazzurri lose 2-1.

FC Internazionale v US Sassuolo - Serie A
Rafinha Alcantar (L) of FC Internazionale in action against Francesco Magnanelli of US Sassuolo during the Serie A match between FC Internazionale and US Sassuolo at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on May 12, 2018 in Milan, Italy.
Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images

Trailing 1-0 in the second half, Inter Milan had to throw everything, including the kitchen sink at Sassuolo if the Nerazzurri had any hopes of salvaging a point and keeping up with Lazio for the fourth and final Champions League position.

Instead, Inter’s offense generated nothing but empty shots and its defense got turned around in the 72nd minute to allow Domenico Berardi to drill a right-footed shot into the upper corner past Samir Handanovic which was enough to pace Sassuolo to a 2-1 win over Inter in the final home match of the season for the Nerazzurri.

However Rafinha put one back in the 80th minute after Ivan Perisic found the Brazilian in the area. Rafinha, who had a few attempts at goal earlier in the match, placed a shot off his left foot into the bottom right corner of the net to pull Inter within one, 2-1.

Barring Lazio falling apart Sunday at Walter Zenga’s Crotone, Inter Milan are all but out of the Champions League, but have already qualified for Italy’s top Europa League position.

That, however, may not be enough for Inter to keep transferred players like Rafinha and Joao Cancelo.

FC Internazionale v US Sassuolo - Serie A
FC Internazionale head coach Luciano Spalletti shouts to his players during the Serie A match between FC Internazionale and US Sassuolo at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on May 12, 2018 in Milan, Italy.
Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images

Instead, Inter will be left wondering what happened after such a strong start that saw them top of the table 16 matches into the season. But, a mid-season collapse where Inter struggled to gain points in matches found themselves in a position of looking up at its goal of Champions League football.

Now, thanks to a season sweep at the hands of Sassuolo, Inter will return to Europe, but not in the competition it had hoped for.

In the first half, Inter set the tone from the on-set by forcing Sassuolo into more of a defensive stance.

But, it was Sassuolo who had the better looks at goal in the first 25 minutes.

Domenico Berardi tested Inter keeper Samir Handanovic in the 23rd minute with a low shot off his left foot, but the attempt went wide.

But, two minutes later, after Brozovic was shown a yellow card after fouling Claud Adjapong, Politano directed the free kick — which was just outside the area — under the defensive wall set up by the Nerazzurri and past Handanovic to put Sassuolo up 1-0 in the 25th minute.

From that moment through the end of the first half, it was Andrea Consigli who kept Inter off balance.

The Sassuolo goalkeeper was tested by Brozovic in the 31st minute with a right-footed shot. Rafinha and Antonio Candreva drilled shots in in the 33rd and 36th minutes, respectively, but Consigli was there.

Inter had its best chance to score in the 42nd minute when Brozovic found Mauro Icardi with a through ball in front of goal, but Icardi was whistled off-sides.

Then, just before half, Icardi took another attempt at the back of the net after Ivan Perisic placed the ball right at Icardi’s feet in front of goal. Icardi maneuvered around for a shot, but his attempted was pushed aside by Consigli.

Now, Inter waits for Lazio-Crotone on Sunday. Crotone are playing to avoid relegation while Lazio will try to hang on and distance themselves from Inter to secure the Champions League.

If there is a draw or Lazio loses, the final game of the season could determine which team gets Europa League and which team gets Champions League.

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