MILAN – Inter will look back ruefully at the sending-off of Yuto Nagatomo as the turning point in today’s match at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza. The scores were finely posed at 1-1 and Inter were arguably the side looking more likely to go on to claim all three points. There can be no doubt that playing with ten men against eleven for a large chunk of the match had an irreversible bearing on the result. Cagliari played without fear and leave Milan triumphant with a 1-4 win under their belts.
Zeman’s side were on the front foot from the off and nudged in front after just ten minutes. Sau sprang the offside trap and beat Handanovic with a powerful strike. Inter looked to hit back immediately, but Palacio’s effort from the heart of the penalty box was weak.
The equaliser came on 18 minutes. Osvaldo showed astute thinking to latch on to Palacio’s quick free-kick with the Cagliari defence sleeping. However, Inter’s fillip was short-lived as Nagatomo received his marching orders in the 27th minute after a second yellow card. The Japanese clearly held Cossu back, leaving the referee little option but to send him for an early bath.
Just two minutes later, Cagliari were in front. Dessena had an effort from the edge of the box saved by Handanovic, but the ball dropped kindly for Ekdal who stroked it home. Whilst Inter were pointing fingers, Cagliari struck the hammer blow as Ekdal powered home an Ibarbo cross to make it 1-3.
The Nerazzurri, who also lost Dodo to a knee complaint towards the end of the first half, seemed powerless to resist the onrushing Cagliari attackers. Handanovic saved well from a Cossu penalty, but one minute before the break Ekdal completed his hat-trick, taking advantage of some confusion in the Inter box after a corner.
Inter came out for the second half looking for a way back into the match. Osvaldo had a goal chalked off for offside, before Palacio forced Cragno into a good save after a D’Ambrosio cross. The Nerazzurri looked urgently for a goal, but Vidic could only head over from a free-kick. Not even the entry of Icardi – in place of Palacio – could make any difference to the scoreboard.
Cagliari made good use of their numerical advantage, ensuring that Inter simply could not find a way back into the match.
Inter 1-4 Cagliari (HT: 1-4)
Scorers: Sau 9, Osvaldo 17, Ekdal 29, 34, 45.
Inter: 1 Handanovic; 6 Andreolli, 15 Vidic, 5 Juan Jesus; 55 Nagatomo, 88 Hernanes, 18 Medel (Guarin HT), 10 Kovacic, 22 Dodò (D'Ambrosio 88); 8 Palacio (Icardi 68), 7 Osvaldo.
Subs not used: 30 Carrizo, 46 Berni, 17 Kuzmanovic, 20 Obi, 23 Ranocchia, 25 Mbaye, 28 Puscas, 44 Krhin, 90 M'Vila.
Coach: Walter Mazzarri.
Cagliari: 27 Cragno; 21 Balzano, 32 Ceppitelli, 15 Rossettini, 8 Avelar; 16 Dessena (Joa Pedro 89), 4 Crisetig, 20 Ekdal; 23 Ibarbo (Farias 68), 25 Sau (Longo 73), 7 Cossu.
Subs not used: 28 Carboni, 3 Murru, 13 Caio Rangel, 14 Pisano, 30 Donsah, 33 Capuano.
Coach: Zdenek Zeman.
Booked: Nagatomo 25 and 27, Sau 45, Rossettini 45, Guarin 82, Balzano 82.
Sent off: Nagatomo 27.
Added time: 3 + 3 minutes.
Referee: Luca Banti (Livorno).