Inter Milan goalkeeper Samir Handanovic produced a string of fine saves as Roberto Mancini’s title-challengers dropped more points in a frustrating 1-1 draw at Atalanta on Saturday.

Inter travelled to Bergamo desperate to make amends for a shock 1-0 loss to Sassuolo last week that allowed Napoli to go two points clear of the chasing pack.

Amid a messy encounter that saw own goals for both sides, Handanovic was the clear standout, producing several impressive stops only to see the visitors fail to convert their few chances in a more promising second half.

Inter’s fourth draw of the campaign moved them up one place to second to sit one point behind Napoli, who host Sassuolo in Saturday’s late game. Juventus are now third, two points off the pace, ahead of their trip to Udinese on Sunday.

Atalanta had lost their last four league games and Edy Reja’s decision to deploy a defence-minded 3-5-2 kept Inter frustrated for long periods.

But the hosts were a constant threat in attack and only the reflexes of Handanovic, who recently signed a new, improved three-year contract extension, were crucial.

Atalanta made a lightning start, creating two chances in the opening minutes when Luca Cigarini’s volley flashed wide and Handanovic was forced to deflect Boukary Drame’s effort at the near post, with Jasmin Kurtic’s follow-up off target.

Atalanta’s early pressing had Inter in disarray but Handanovic was only beaten when a weighted Drame pass towards the far post was deflected by Jeison Murillo past Handanovic from six yards.

Handanovic was forced to block with his foot minutes later when another Murillo error allowed Gaetano Monachello through, but the visitors were soon back on level terms.

Inter were finding space down the right flank with relative ease, and when Mauro Icardi’s inviting cross arrived defender Rafael Toloi’s attempted clearance skewed past home ‘keeper Marco Sportiello and into the net.

Atalanta should have restored their lead on the stroke of half-time but an alert Handanovic threw up a hand to palm Monachello’s half-volley over the bar.

Atalanta resumed the second half in similar fashion and within minutes Handanovic twice saved Mancini’s men from close range.

Seven minutes after the restart the Slovenian fingertipped Toloi’s header out from under the crossbar following a corner and on the hour mark wowed fans again when he somehow got his trailing leg to block Cigarini’s mid-air effort from yards out.

Inter spurned chances just after the hour when Icardi’s header was deflected out for a corner and then the Argentinian, after collecting Stevan Jovetic’s through ball, fired wide of the target.

Mancini replaced Alex Telles with Jonathan Biabiany, in the process switching to a three-man defence, but the extra firepower failed to spark the title-challengers.

By AFP

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