Soccer-Title-chasing Inter held to 2-2 draw by lowly Cagliari


Soccer Football - Serie A - Inter Milan v Cagliari - San Siro, Milan, Italy - April 14, 2024 Inter Milan's Nicolo Barella and Davide Frattesi look dejected after the match REUTERS/Claudia Greco

MILAN (Reuters) -Runaway leaders Inter Milan will hope to clinch their 20th Italian league title in the Milan derby despite being held to a late 2-2 draw by struggling Cagliari in Serie A on Sunday.

With six games left Inter, who have 83 points from 32 games, hold a 14-point advantage over second-placed AC Milan, who drew 3-3 at relegation-threatened Sassuolo earlier on Sunday.

Inter can secure the championship if they beat Stefano Pioli's side later this month at San Siro.

"We're disappointed by a missed victory, we took the lead twice and wanted to take the match home," Inter coach Simone Inzaghi told a press conference.

"But we know that Monday (April 22) is the first big opportunity, we are close to a goal that we all want to reach.

"We are thinking about an objective which we've had in mind since July 13... We must not let our guard down."

Inter won their last league title in 2020-21.

Inter, who drew for the second time in their last four league games, were without Serie A top scorer Lautaro Martinez and defender Benjamin Pavard, who missed out through suspension and were replaced by Alexis Sanchez and Alessandro Bastoni.

Marcus Thuram gave Inter the lead in the 12th minute before Eldor Shomurodov levelled for Cagliari after the break. Hakan Calhanoglu restored the lead for the hosts in the 74th from the spot but Cagliari levelled again when Nicolas Viola struck.

STRONG START

Inter started strongly and Sanchez set up forward Thuram for the Frenchman to give them the early lead from close range.

It was his 11th league goal this term but his first in two months since opening the scoring in a 4-0 win over Salernitana.

Nicolo Barella thought he had doubled Inter's lead with a stunning header before the half-hour mark but it was ruled out for offside.

Cagliari equalised in the 64th minute when Zito Luvumbo collected a long-range pass into the box and set up Shomurodov, who scored from the edge of the area into the bottom corner.

Inter got back on track when they were awarded a penalty for a handball by Yerry Mina and Calhanoglu fired a precise low spot kick into the corner past goalkeeper Simone Scuffet.

However, Cagliari found another equaliser seven minutes from time when Viola struck from near the penalty spot.

Replays showed that the ball possibly deflected into Viola's path after it came off Gianluca Lapadula's arm.

"The referees run around the middle of the pitch a lot," Inzaghi said. "We can make mistakes, just like them.

"Seeing it again there could have been a (VAR) review, but it happened and (the goal stood)... Let's move on."

Inter had won their previous five Serie A matches against Cagliari by an aggregate score of 13-2.

(Reporting by Anita Kobylinska in Gdansk; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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