MILAN - Inter turned in a convincing performance to dismantle Cagliari 4-0 at San Siro on Sunday evening and leapfrog neighbours Milan to reach the top of the Serie A table.
It was a case of one-way traffic throughout the contest and if it hadn’t been for a string of impressive saves by Cagliari goalkeeper Alessio Cragno, the winning margin would’ve been considerably larger. In the first half alone, Inter registered 77% possession and had a huge 13 efforts on goal.
Stefan de Vrij returned to the heart of the defence after injury and Alexis Sanchez was given the nod up front along Lautaro Martinez.
The hosts piled on the pressure from the get-go, with Nicolo Barella getting two efforts in on goal in the early stages before Milan Skriniar unleashed a powerful drive that the goalkeeper parried away.
Lautaro opened the scoring for the Nerazzurri just before the half-hour mark when he nodded home yet another pinpoint Hakan Calhanoglu corner at the near post, which brought back memories of his maiden goal for Inter against the same opposition back in 2018. The Argentine had a chance to double his tally on the stroke of half time when Denzel Dumfries was brought down in the box by Cragno in the Cagliari goal, but his penalty was kept out brilliantly by the shotstopper.
Simone Inzaghi’s charges all but put the game to bed early in the second half when Sanchez notched his first Serie A goal of the season with a thunderous right-footed volley to convert Barella’s hooked cross and become the club’s 15th different goalscorer in the league this term.
Calhanoglu added gloss to the scoreline in the 66th minute with a rocket of a finish from 25 yards out after cutting in from the left wing on to his right foot. The fourth and final goal of the game came two minutes later when Lautaro made amends for his earlier penalty miss to bag a brace after chesting down Barella’s ball over the top and nicking it past the goalkeeper.
There was still time for Mattia Zanotti to enter the fray to make his Inter debut before Cragno added to his collection of saves to deny Barella, Skriniar and Arturo Vidal.
The reigning champions took advantage of Milan’s failure to pick up all three points against Udinese on Saturday and now sit one-point clear at the summit.
Next up for the Nerazzurri is a trip to Salernitana on Friday evening.
Inter 4-0 Cagliari (HT: 1-0)
Scorers: Lautaro 19 and 68, Sanchez 51, Calhanoglu 66.
INTER (3-5-2): 1 Handanovic; 37 Skriniar, 6 De Vrij, 95 Bastoni; 2 Dumfries (32 Dimarco, 72), 23 Barella, 77 Brozovic (22 Vidal, 72), 20 Calhanoglu (12 Sensi, 76), 14 Perisic (46 Zanotti, 82); 10 Lautaro (48 Satriano, 72), 7 Sanchez.
Subs not used: 97 Radu, 5 Gagliardini, 8 Vecino, 9 Dzeko, 11 Kolarov, 13 Ranocchia, 33 D'Ambrosio.
Coach: Simone Inzaghi.
CAGLIARI (3-5-2): 28 Cragno; 4 Caceres (25 Zappa, 69), 2 Godin, 44 Carboni (33 Obert, 82); 12 Bellanova, 27 Grassi (22 Lykogiannis, 59), 8 Marin, 14 Deiola (21 Oliva, 82), 29 Dalbert; 10 Joao Pedro, 9 Keita (30 Pavoletti, 69).
Subs not used: 1 Aresti, 31 Radunovic, 15 Altare, 20 Pereiro, 32 Ceter.
Coach: Walter Mazzarri.
Booked: Lautaro, Cragno, Deiola.
Notes: Cragno saved a penalty by Lautaro in the 44th minute.
Added time: 1+0 minutes.
Assistants: Scatragli, Della Croce.
Fourth official: Minelli.
Assistant VAR: Ranghetti.