Inter will now be fully concentrating on trying to win their first Serie A title since 2010 as they were knocked out of the Champions League in the group stages.
It was always going to be a difficult group for Inter and in having to square off against Real Madrid, Borrussia Monchengladbach and Shakhtar Donetsk Inter were certainly in the group of death.
In the final group game they had to beat Shakhtar at home and hope that Real Madrid would beat Monchengladbach. Real obliged with their win which they needed themselves anyway but Inter could only draw 0-0, and they were out. To rub salt into the wounds Antonio Conte’s team finished in 4th place. One wonders though if finishing last could be a blessing in disguise, as 3rd would have put the club into the Europa League. With no European football to contend with Inter can focus 100% on the league now.
The Italian media were inevitably scathing of Conte after their European exit and Conte said: “We have to evaluate everything with cool heads, not after an exit like this. There is a great deal of regret and disappointment, but I absolutely do not feel we were lacking determination, focus or aggression. We lacked a goal and throughout the Champions League campaign, we have not been fortunate with referees and the VAR.”
Cagliari 1-3 Inter
The good news is that the disappointment of being knocked out of Europe did not roll over and infect the team in the domestic league which they still hope to win. Inter beat Cagliari 3-1 and that means Conte’s side have won 4 games in a row.
It was a game that Inter dominated from the first whistle to the last but they found themselves trailing 1-0 at half time. The home side had scored from having just one shot on target to Inter’s five, and it looked like it would be a frustrating game for the away side.
However with 13 minutes left and a surprise result on the cards Inter’s pressure finally paid off. Nicolo Barella made it 1-1 with a fine effort from the edge of the area. Seven minutes later Inter were in the lead and now Barella had turned provider after his cross found the head of Danilo D’Ambrosio who had been on the pitch for just 60 seconds.
Romelu Lukaku wrapped the encounter up with a fine run from his own half as Cagliari were caught out throwing too many men forward in search of an equaliser. Lukaku had no one to challenge and was able to run the length of the half and tap in easy. It was Lukaku’s 9th goal of the season.
Inter are 2nd and because Milan could only draw 2-2 at home to Parma it means that the gap has been shortened to just 3 points. Milan will be away to Genoa in midweek and Inter will be at home to Napoli in a crunch game since Napoli are right behind them and just a point off. Indeed the difference between 2nd to 5th is just two points so a lot can change in midweek and then next weekend as we head into the Christmas break.
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