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Inter Milan shocked at Cagliari in 2-1 loss

Serie A race for the Champions League positions just got really interesting.

Cagliari v FC Internazionale - Serie A
Lautaro Martinez of Inter celebrates his goal 1-1 during the Serie A match between Cagliari and FC Internazionale at Sardegna Arena on March 1, 2019 in Cagliari, Italy.
Photo by Enrico Locci/Getty Images

Two first-half goals from Luca Ceppitelli and Leonardo Pavoletti were enough to keep Inter Milan at bay as Cagliari squeaked out a surprise 2-1 win over the Nerazzurri Friday night in Sardinia.

Inter’s loss opens the door for AC Milan and AS Roma to overtake or draw level with Inter after the weekend matches.

Cagliari v FC Internazionale - Serie A
Leonardo Pavoletti of Cagliari celebrates his goal 2-1 during the Serie A match between Cagliari and FC Internazionale at Sardegna Arena on March 1, 2019 in Cagliari, Italy.
Photo by Enrico Locci/Getty Images

A win over Sassuolo Saturday will put AC Milan a point above Inter into third while if AS Roma can defeat Lazio in the capital derby Saturday, they will draw level with Inter for fourth position.

This was Inter’s first defeat in five matches and came on the heels of a last-minute draw at Fiorentina last Sunday where a penalty was awarded in the 100th minute of the match with Inter leading 3-2.

In the first 12 minutes of the match, it was all Inter.

Ivan Perisic and Martinez both took cracks at the Cagliari goal, but neither found the target.

After that, the Rossoblu started hammering on Inter’s defense.

Paolo Farago tried to head home a leader, but his attempt went right in the 13th minute. Two minutes later, Pavoletti got a ball in from Joao Pedro, but his left-footed shot was saved by Samir Handanovic.

Pavoletti got a corner cross in from Cigarini in the 18th minute. Pavoletti’s header, however went wide left.

Martinez did have a shot at giving Inter the lead in the 27th minute after Radja Nainggolan crossed a pass in to Martinez in the area, but Martinez’s effort was too hard.

Then, where Cagliari have been the most dangerous gave them the lead.

In the 31st minute, Cigarini crossed into the box off a set piece and found Ceppitelli in the center of the area. Ceppitelli headed in a goal in the left corner to put Cagliari up 1-0. The set piece was set up after Milan Skriniar was booked for fouling Cigarini on a counter-attack.

The lead, however, lasted all of seven minutes.

In the 38th minute, Martinez got on the scoresheet for Inter after heading in a cross from Nainggolan from just outside the six-yard area, tying the match 1-1.

Matias Vecino nearly gave Inter its first lead just four minutes later, but his header from the center of the area was saved by Cagliari net-minder Alessio Cragno.

A breakdown in the Inter defense led to Cagliari taking the lead back in the 43rd minute after Darijo Srna found Pavoletti to the right of the goal. Pavoletti slotted in a shot that Handanovic could do nothing with, giving the Rossoblu a 2-1 lead.

In the closing minutes of the first half, Inter made some attempts to level the match with Martinez and Nainggolan each taking cracks at goal, but to no avail.

Inter started the second half on the attack as Martinez took a headed pass from Perisic into the area, but his touch was too strong in the 50th minute.

In a two-minute span, Matteo Politano, Danilo D’Ambrosio and Vecino each had shots near the target, but none managed to find their way through.

Getting goals was not for a lack of trying for Inter. By the 70th minute the Nerazzurri had 15 shots with five of them on target.

In the 78th minute, D’Ambrosio nearly helped Inter draw level when he found Martinez in the center of the box. Martinez attempted a header that went wide of the goal.

Cagliari v FC Internazionale - Serie A
Luciano Spalletti coach of Inter looks on during the Serie A match between Cagliari and FC Internazionale at Sardegna Arena on March 1, 2019 in Cagliari, Italy.
Photo by Enrico Locci/Getty Images

That seemed to sum up Inter’s second half. Lots of opportunities, but all coming wide or over goal.

It rang true in the 83rd minute after Kwadwo Asamoah maneuvered the ball round and picked out substitute Borja Valero near goal. Valero nearly had a wide open look at the goal, but his shot went over the net.

A minute later, Martinez had a great look at goal after Nainggolan found him off the right side of the goal. Martinez moved the ball around and took a shot that was pushed away by Cragno.

The frustration finally caught up with Inter Milan after Skriniar was caught fouling Kiril Despodov in the box in the 90th minute.

Nicolo Barella – who has been linked to Inter as a potential pickup in the summer – stepped up and blasted the ball over the net to keep Inter in the match in extra time.

Inter will now switch gears and prepare for their Europa League round of 16 match with Eintracht Frankfurt on March 7 followed by a return to Serie A action at the Giuseppe Meazza against SPAL on Sunday, March 10.

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