Inter stay 11 points clear at the top of Serie A thanks to an 11th straight win after Matteo Darmian’s goal sealed a hard-fought 1-0 win against relegation battling Cagliari at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on Sunday afternoon.
The Nerazzurri were made to work for the three points as debutant goalkeeper Guglielmo Vicario went on a one-man mission to make it one to remember in the Casteddu goal, until Darmian finally broke the deadlock in the second half thanks to an assist from substitute Achraf Hakimi that meant he couldn’t miss.
Christian Eriksen had the first real chance of the game after ten minutes, his shot from outside the area wonderfully tipped over the bar by Vicario – the first action on the goalkeeper’s Serie A debut – which would no doubt help to settle his nerves as he replaced Alessio Cragno, who is COVID-positive.
Alexis Sanchez thought he’d given Inter the lead on the 17th minute, but his effort was ruled out for offside following a smart finish into the top corner from a lovely Lukaku through ball.
Cagliari began to get a foothold on the game as the half went on but only tested Samir Handanovic once in the Inter goal, with Radja Nainggolan trying his luck with a trademark 35-yard effort but it was straight down the keeper’s throat.
Vicario made another fine save as he did his best to keep a clean sheet on his debut, getting down smartly at his near post to push away Darmian’s left-footed effort after the full-back had cut in from the right, before the half ran its course, and the sides went in level.
The second half started with yet another Vicario save from yet another long-range effort, this time Stefano Sensi was the man trying to catch the inexperienced keeper off guard but he was an equal match to it.
Romelu Lukaku was inches wide with a header on the 55th minute after finding himself on the end of Marcelo Brozovic’s floated ball from wide. A minute later, Vicario did well to tip Eriksen’s powerful drive over the bar again.
Stefan De Vrij was centimetres away from giving Antonio Conte’s team the lead but his header clipped the top of the crossbar from an Eriksen corner.
The Serie A leaders got their winner on the 77th minute when Darmian tapped in at the back post after a lovely pull-back from substitute and fellow wing-back, Hakimi, following nice play between him and Lukaku.
AC Milan’s win at Parma on Saturday had moved them within eight points of Inter, but the Nerazzurri’s 11-point cushion has been restored.