MILAN - A total of 57,025 fans were present at a freezing San Siro on Saturday evening to help cheer Inter on to a 1-0 victory over Udinese on matchday 16 in Serie A TIM. A delightful 76th-minute penalty from Mauro Icardi (his ninth goal of the season) made the difference during a hard-fought encounter, with the Nerazzurri now moving up to 32 points in the league standings, still in third place.
Inter started the match in clear control, with Joao Mario firing wide in the eighth minute following a ball from Politano. 10 minutes later, the Portuguese midfielder swung in a corner that found Skriniar, although the latter’s header was easily saved by Musso. With the corners totting up for Inter, Icardi then nearly broke the deadlock in the 22nd minute after heading just wide from a Politano set-piece. Spalletti’s side continued pressing, and in the 25th minute Borja Valero fired wide before Asamoah tested Musso with a deflected cross five minutes later. The Spaniard was involved offensively once again in the 35th minute, although his header failed to find the target.
With the half-time whistle approaching, there were still yet more chances for the hosts. First, through great link-up play between Joao Mario and Vrsaljko that led to a 39th-minute cross that just missed Icardi in the middle. It was then Keita’s turn as he forced a strong save from Musso in the 43rd minute. Despite enjoying the lion’s share of possession, the Nerazzurri entered the break with the scoreline still tied at 0-0.
The teams came back out for the second half unchanged. In the 50th minute, De Vrij got his head to a Brozovic corner but it went off target. Udinese got forward properly for the first time in the 51st minute, missing a big chance. Mandragora was all alone at the far post but fired over from Fofana’s low cross. The side from the Friuli started to show more confidence going forward. In the 53rd minute, De Paul missed the target with a long shot before Ter Avest tried to pick out the bottom corner. Spalletti looked to bring new life to the team, taking Borja Valero off for Lautaro Martinez. The change worked as Inter got back on the front foot. In the 66th minute, Keita played a perfect cross for Icardi who was in an ideal position to convert but he headed wide with Musso rooted to the spot. In the 70th minute, Perisic came on for Keita. The Croatian started in lively fashion, leading to a Fofana handball and a penalty that was awarded after VAR consultation. Icardi stepped up and beat Musso with a perfect chip down the middle to break the deadlock in the 76th minute. The visitors looked to respond with Handanovic saving from a low De Paul strike from outside the area in the 81st minute. At the end, Spalletti also brought Nainggolan on for Politano. Icardi had a chance to kill things off after Musso dropped a cross but his shot went just over. After four minutes of stoppage time, Abisso blew the whistle and it finished 1-0 for Inter.
The Nerazzurri’s next match will be away to ChievoVerona on Saturday 22nd December.
INTER 1-0 UDINESE
Goals: 76' pen. Icardi (I)
INTER: 1 Handanovic; 2 Vrsaljko, 6 De Vrij, 37 Skriniar, 18 Asamoah; 20 Borja Valero (55' 10 Lautaro), 77 Brozovic, 15 Joao Mario; 16 Politano (85' 14 Nainggolan), 9 Icardi, 11 Keita (70' 44 Perisic)
Substitutes: 27 Padelli, 5 Gagliardini, 13 Ranocchia, 23 Miranda, 33 D'Ambrosio, 87 Candreva
Coach: Luciano Spalletti
UDINESE: 1 Musso; 19 Stryger Larsen, 5 Troost-Ekong, 17 Nuytinck; 18 Ter Avest (91' 9 Vizeu), 6 Fofana (85' 16 Machis), 11 Behrami, 38 Mandragora, 77 D'Alessandro; 10 De Paul, 23 Pussetto
Substitutes: 23 Scuffet, 88 Nicolas, 2 Wague, 4 Opoku, 7 Pezzella, 14 Micin, 15 Lasagna, 21 Pontisso, 72 Barak, 99 Balic
Coach: Davide Nicola
Bookings: Asamoah (I), Politano (I), Musso (U), Lautaro (I)
Stoppage time: 0' + 4'
Assistants: Bottegoni, Santoro
Fourth official: Piscopo
VAR operators: Calvarese, Schenone