Lautaro Martinez handed Inter a last-gasp 1-0 victory over Napoli at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza in Serie A on Wednesday.
The Argentine forward stepped off the bench to strike in the dying moments and settle a tense fixture between the Champions League-chasing rivals, just moments after Napoli had seen a shot cleared off the line.
After an intense first half, neither side were able to take control after the break until Napoli centre-back Kalidou Koulibaly was sent off for sarcastically applauding a late booking. The centre-back was followed down the tunnel by Lorenzo Insigne, who was dismissed in the final seconds. Inter almost got off to a perfect start in incredible circumstances, as Mauro Icardi attempted an ambitious shot directly from kick-off, only to see the ball cannon off the crossbar.
Whilst neither side were shy in going forward, it was the hosts who showed the greater attacking intent and came close to breaking the deadlock early on. Icardi’s long ball found Ivan Perisic out wide, and the Croatian attacked makeshift full-back Jose Callejon before winning a corner with a low strike.
As the pressure mounted, the Nerazzurri came within inches of taking the lead on the stroke of halftime. The dangerous Icardi controlled a low cross and skipped beyond Nikola Maksimovic, before seeming to lose his footing as he attempted to round goalkeeper Alex Meret.
However, as the Argentine stumbled he managed to connect with the ball and direct it goalward, but Koulibaly slid in and hooked it clear on the line.
A scrappy start to the second half saw neither team able to take control of possession, with the opening exchanges riddled with poor passes.
Yet, Napoli forced a fine opening through some slick play as their passing clicked. Quick build up saw the ball fall to Insigne and the Italian’s mazy dribble into the box teed up Arkadiusz Milik. Samir Handanovic showed rapid reactions to sweep the ball off the striker’s toes however.
The Partenopei were in the ascendancy and fashioned another opportunity immediately. A counter-attack culminated in Insigne spreading the ball wide to Callejon, and the winger forced a good low save at the far post with a vicious drive.
As in the first half, Koulibaly rescued Napoli when Inter looked certain to score. Perisic broke into the box and cut across the face of goal with Icardi waiting to tap in, only for the centre-back to slide in and get a crucial block.
However, the game was turned on it’s head when the Senegalese was sent off with 10 minutes remaining. Having been adjudged to have pulled back Politano on the break, Koulibaly was booked but immediately received a red card for sarcastically applauding the referee.
With Inter piling forward, Napoli almost won it on the counter. Dries Mertens’ low cross was palmed to Insigne and his twist and shot was blocked from close range by Handanovic, before Piotr Zielinski’s effort was kept out on the line by Kwadwo Asamoah.
It would prove critical, as at the other end Keita Balde’s dribble and cross deflected across the box to the unmarked Martinez, and the substitute made no mistake in rifling into the bottom corner.
Things went from bad to worse for Napoli, as Insigne received a straight red card for dissent in the final action of the game.
- Inter have not conceded a goal in their last three Serie A meetings with Napoli
- The Nerazzurri scored their first goal against Napoli since April 2016, having gone four matches without netting
- Inter have not conceded at home in Serie A for six matches, their best streak since 2010
- Lautaro Martinez scored with his first touch in the match
- Napoli coach Carlo Ancelotti was in the dugout for his 450th match in Serie A
- The Partenopei fell to a first defeat since losing to Juventus in September, having recorded eight wins and two draws since
- Kalidou Koulibaly collected his third Serie A red card