MILAN: Lautaro Martinez ensured the Serie A title race will head into the final week of the season on Sunday with a brace in Inter Milan’s 3-1 win at Cagliari to stay two points behind leaders AC Milan.
Reigning champions Inter had to win to have any hope of retaining thir league crown after Milan beat Atalanta 2-0 earlier in the day.
And goals in each half from Mattia Darmian’s and Martinez ensured that Simone Inzaghi’s side would push their local rivals down to the wire with a hard-fought victory in Sardinia.
Simone Inzaghi’s Inter could have been tired after a thrilling, extra-time Coppa Italia triumph over old foes Juventus on Wednesday but came through a tricky test against a side scrapping for their top flight lives.
“It wasn’t easy after Milan’s win, but the team played really well against an opponent who is problematic on their own ground,” Inzaghi told DAZN.
“I congratulate my team, because this was by no means to be taken for granted, especially after playing 120 minutes on Wednesday [in the Coppa Italia final].
“Naturally, we are behind, so we need a victory and for them [Milan] to lose. It’s happened before, I won with Lazio when we were two points behind and Juventus lost to Perugia [in 2000], so it can happen again.”
Cagliari meanwhile stay two points behind Salernitana, who sit just outside the relegation zone. The Sardinians must beat already-relegated Venezia on the final day to have any hope of survival.
They had already had a Milan Skriniar goal ruled out for handball when Darmian did put the away side ahead, and once Martinez lashed home his first six minutes after the break he thought that was that.
Charalampos Lykogiannis thumped home from distance almost straight afterwards to give Cagliari hope of getting an unlikely result, but with six minutes remaining Martinez dinked home his second to calm Inter nerves.
On the final day Inter host Sampdoria, who are now safe thanks to defeat for 18th-placed Cagliari, while Milan travel to Sassuolo needing just a point to secure their first Scudetto since 2011.
Stefano Pioli’s side have the better of the season’s two Milan derbies meaning that if the two teams finish level on points it will be Milan who take the title.
They hold the advantage over Inter thanks to strikes from Rafael Leao and Theo Hernandez which sealed their win over Atalanta in front of a packed San Siro.
Leao broke through after 56 minutes, picking up a Messias through ball before firing between the legs of Atalanta goalkeeper Juan Musso, with Hernandez adding a second 19 minutes later following a brilliant solo run through the Atalanta defence.
“It’s not over yet, we must be determined and calm,” Pioli told DAZN. “I am very satisfied, because we played against a strong team that created difficulties for us. We did well in the attacking phase and we found solutions. We never lost our clarity and we always believed in it, so the victory is a well-deserved reward.
“I’m living very normal weeks, because I see the positive attitude of my players. We have an important background, derived from two years together. The boys make me proud.”
In Naples, Lorenzo Insigne scored on his final home game for Napoli, a 3-0 win over Genoa, who are now relegated to Serie B.
It was an emotional final match for Insigne at the Diego Maradona Stadium after 12 years in his hometown club. The Napoli captain will join MLS club Toronto FC as a free agent from July 1.
The 30-year-old was given a guard of honour as he walked out onto the pitch for the final time alongside his sons and was presented with gifts.
Insigne scored Napoli’s second goal from the penalty spot after an hour with Victor Osimhen and Stanislav Lobotka also on target for the third-placed southeners who return to Champions League football next season.
Published in Dawn, May 17th, 2022