Inter Milan’s pursuit for a Scudetto since 2009/10 became more real after a 1-0 win versus Cagliari. A late goal from Matteo Darmian stood to be the difference maker as he converted a pass from Achraf Hakimi.
It was Inter’s eleventh straight win and they remain undefeated in the past fourteen matches in Serie A. They’re separated by eleven points from second place team, AC Milan, and sit comfortably in first place. As for Cagliari, they currently hold the final spot in the relegation zone and are five points back of Torino, who hold a game in hand.
So, who were the winners and losers in Inter’s 1-0 win over Cagliari?
Winner: Matteo Darmian
In recent time, Darmian has been vital to Inter’s success. In their match versus Sassuolo, the Italian replaced a suspended Alessandro Bastoni and performed admirably at left centre-back. He followed up with another impressive performance against Cagliari. Hakimi started on the bench and Darmian started in his place.
Throughout the match, Darmian made good runs, delivered quality crosses into the box and was effective in the back end as well. He scored late in the match, which ended up being the game winner. Arriving from Parma in the summer transfer market, this has been one of the best moves made by Inter. Highly regarded by Inter manager, Antonio Conte, he’s proven to be a valuable player this season.
Darmian finished the match with five tackles, three clearances, two shots on target and a pass accuracy rate of 80%. It was another quality outing and, with Hakimi struggling for consistency, he’s proven to be a quality backup.
Winner: Antonio Conte
One man who has often been criticized for his decisions has been Conte. From time to time, he’s either waited too long to sub off players, failed to use all five of his substitutes or didn’t sub off the right players. That was not the case versus Cagliari.
It was an obvious choice to take off Alexis Sánchez, but the decision to take off Ashley Young was wise and one that paid off for Inter. With the game tied 0-0, Conte subbed off Young for Hakimi at the 70th minute and left Darmian in the match. The Italian had a strong game while Young wasn’t as effective.
Hakimi brought a spark when he entered the match. He was quick, made good runs and was able to get behind the defense. Most importantly, the wing-back assisted on Darmian’s goal only seven minutes after being substituted, which proved to be vital.
Conte managed this game very well, having his side create numerous chances while defending well and limiting Cagliari to one shot on target. It was Inter’s third clean sheet in the past five matches and they have limited their opponents to just two goals during that span. They continue to be difficult to break down and win against.
The loss put a dent in Cagliari’s hopes of escaping the relegation zone. They currently find themselves sitting in the final spot and are five points back of Torino. To make matters worse, the Granata also hold a game in hand. While the arrival of Cagliari manager, Leonardo Semplici, has them playing better football, it may not be enough to help turn their season around.
Cagliari have now lost four straight matches and have gone scoreless in their past two matches in Serie A. With eight games remaining, it will be a tall order to stay in the top flight. The biggest regret may be the signing of ex-Cagliari manager, Eusebio Di Francesco, who never had this team playing good football and couldn’t achieve wins.
Winner: Guglielmo Vicario
Making his first start in Serie A, Cagliari goalkeeper, Guglielmo Vicario, was outstanding for his side. He didn’t show any nerves and had plenty of confidence as he made key saves versus Inter. He finished the match with six saves, where he denied Stefano Sensi and Christian Eriksen while displaying good technique and positioning.
Vicario was admirable in place of Alessio Cragno and gave his side a good chance of winning or drawing this match. His passing was effective as well where 11 of his 17 long ball passes were accurate. He showed good footwork and the ability to move the ball forward to his teammates. The goalkeeper had no chance on Darmian’s goal, nonetheless, a quality debut from the 24-year-old.
Loser: Lautaro Martinez
It was a lackluster performance from Lautaro Martinez, who struggled to make an impact off the bench. The striker played over 20 minutes, where he didn’t have a shot on goal and showed bad control on five occasions. The Argentine’s hold up play was very poor as he fell to the ground far too easily and constantly looked for a foul.
With Inter needing a goal and spark, he provided very little in Inter’s attack and didn’t fare much better than Sánchez. Sánchez was far more effective as he was able to get in behind the Cagliari defensive, showed good intensity and had some quality shots on goal. Fortunately for Inter, Darmian managed to deliver for his side.
Winner: Christian Eriksen
Conte’s willingness to start Eriksen on a consistent basis has paid off Inter and really turned their season around. The Dane once again was effective in the midfield for the Nerazzurri, where he won key challenges, made timely passes and was effective in their attack. Specifically, he posed a threat on set pieces as many of his crosses were delivered accurately into the goal area.
Eriksen has played well alongside Marcelo Brozovic, Stefano Sensi and Nicolo Barella. He’s shown good footwork and his technique has been exquisite. On numerous occasions, he put Inter in a good position to score. He finished the match with one key pass, pass accuracy rate of 95.6% and two shots on target.