New Delhi: The champions of Italy suffered their fourth defeat of the campaign, as Cagliari continued their impressive run this season.
The home side got the play underway at the Sant’Elia stadium, and despite having little to play for in this match, they pressed forward with real purpose in the opening minute. Toldo found himself under immediate pressure from the Cagliari players, however he dealt with everything that was thrown at him in the early stages.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic continued his brilliant form this season with the opening goal after just eight minutes, following a great build up play. After picking up the ball around 30 yards from goal, Ibra worked his way through the opposing back four, to then fake a shot and eventually hit a powerful effort that was too much for Marchetti to handle.
The Swede was in the thick of the action moments later, as some neat work between he and Santon looked likely to set up a great chance on goal, however the young defender was brought down on the edge of the area with what looked to be a certain foul. The referee did not agree with the players though, despite the replays indicating that they certainly had a case.
The Rossoblu slowly started to get themselves into the match following this point, as they heaped the pressure on Toldo and the Nerazzurri back four. Cossu and Fini were responsible for orchestrating a large number of the forward movements, however the veteran keeper and Materazzi in particular, denied the home side the chance to draw level midway through the half.
They managed to get their reward after 34 minutes of play, through Cossu, who grabbed a well deserved equaliser. After being played through on goal, the midfielder easily made his way past Burdisso by faking a shot, which then allowed him to coolly slot the ball past Toldo to level the score at 1-1.
Cagliari continued to look the more threatening in the latter stages of the first half; however unfortunately for their sake, the Inter back four were determined not to concede a second prior to the half time interval. The champions were successful in doing exactly that, as the sides left the field all square as they started.
As was the case in the first half, the home side started the brighter, as Acquafresca and Fini looked to get things going in the opening minutes of play. The Nerazzurri back four were under pressure right from the onset, as Burdisso was forced to make a decisive challenge after just six minutes into the half, to deny Acquafresca the chance to put his side ahead.
Inter had a golden opportunity to reclaim the lead on 53 minutes, when an inch perfect ball into the area by Santon was not taken full advantage of, as both Ibrahimovic and Cruz in particular squandered opportunities. The latter failed to make any contact with the ball, despite finding himself in an unmarked position at the back post.
Moments later, Allegri made the first change of the afternoon, as Parola was brought on in the place of Biondini. The substitute almost had an immediate impact, as he was involved in a play that led to Cossu chipping a ball to the back post, which forced Chivu into making yet another decisive clearance to deny Acquafresca. Following this, Mourinho made his first switch of the match, as Balotelli came on for Cruz.
The exhausting heat was beginning to take its toll on the players, which led to both coaches making their second changes of the contest. The Rossoblu introduced Lazzari in the place of Fini, to add some much needed energy in to the midfield, whilst the Nerazzurri welcomed Mancini onto the pitch, with Jimenez making way.
Incredibly Cagliari took the lead just moments following the Inter substitution, as Acquafresca grabbed his side’s second of the afternoon. A fantastic build up play led to Biondini with the ball at his feet on the right, and his glorious cross into the area was made the most of by the head of the Genoa-bound Acquafresca.
As the clock entered the final ten minutes, the opportunities began to dry up, as the home side looked determined to take three points away from this clash against the recently crowned champions of Italy. The Nerazzurri surged forward in numbers, however they simply could not find a way through the resolute Rossoblu defence.
Vieira made a mess of what was arguably the Nerazzurri’s best opportunity in the final minutes of the match, as he failed to make the most of a glorious through ball by Ibrahimovic. The Frenchman’s dreadful first touch allowed his opponents to clear the danger, and hold onto their slight advantage.
The referee’s whistle after five minutes of stoppage time brought the match to an end, a contest that astonishingly ended in favour of the home side. The Rossoblu continued their impressive run of form this season, and their latest victory over the champions of Italy will see them comfortably finish in the top half of the standings at the conclusion of the campaign.
Cagliari (4-3-1-2): Marchetti; Pisano, Canini, Lopez (Astori, 81’), Agostini; Fini (Lazzari, 62’), Conti, Parola (Biondini, 54’); Cossu; Jeda, Acquafresca.
Inter (4-3-3): Toldo; Santon, Burdisso, Materazzi, Chivu (Bolzoni, 75’); Zanetti, Cambiasso, Vieira; Jimenez (Mancini, 67’), Cruz (Balotelli, 60’), Ibrahimovic.
8’ Ibrahimovic (Inter)
34’ Cossu (Cagliari)
71’ Acquafresca (Cagliari)
Adrian Del Monte, Goal.com
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