Matteo Darmian was the unlikely hero as Inter Milan beat Cagliari 1-0 on Sunday to take another step towards lifting the Serie A crown.
Inter Milan did not have things their way in the early exchanges as Cagliari did well frustrate them in the final third, restricting the goal-scoring opportunities to a large extent. And when the league leaders did carve out openings, goalkeeper Guglielmo Vicario stood in their way, making some fine stops to deny Christian Eriksen and Matteo Darmian in the first half while Alexis Sanchez had a goal chalked off for offside.
The second half began on a similar note as well, with Vicario pulling off a stunning stop to keep Stefano Sensi’s effort from distance while denying Eriksen again as well. Inter came closer and closer as the game wore on, with Stefan de Vrij striking the crossbar before Darmian eventually broke the deadlock in the 77th minute with a simple tap-in after being found by Achraf Hakimi.
That goal turned out to be enough for Antonio Conte’s men to re-establish a 11-point lead at the top after AC Milan had cut it down to eight following their win over Parma on Saturday. And, here’s how we rated the performances of the Inter Milan stars on the afternoon at San Siro.
Samir Handanovic: 6/10
Had very little to do as Cagliari rarely threatened going forward. Did well to stop a long-range effort from Inter Milan loanee Radja Nainggolan. Quiet outing apart from that.
Milan Skriniar: 7/10
As usual, a solid and reliable performance from the Slovakian. Kept things in check for most parts, although there were one or two moments when Alfred Duncan looked to cause problems. Finished with three tackles, four clearances and three aerial duels won, while completing 92% of his passes.
Stefan de Vrij: 7/10
De Vrij remains one of the most underrated players in Serie A and even on his own team
Bastoni the great young center back with passing range, Skriniar the beast who loves Inter- but to me, De Vrij is anchor of unit
— David Amoyal (@DavidAmoyal) April 11, 2021
Much like Skriniar, De Vrij too put in an assured display at the heart of the Inter Milan defence. Saw a lot of the ball and made good use of it, completing 89 of his 91 attempted passes while being strong in his challenges at the back. Unlucky to hit the crossbar in the second half.
Alessandro Bastoni: 7/10
A progressive display from the Inter Milan youngster who looked calm and composed on the ball while looking to push his team forward at every opportunity. Strong positioning meant he was never really in danger of getting caught out defensively. Finished with a game-high seven clearances.
Matteo Darmian: 8/10
An unlikely hero for Inter on the afternoon, Darmian did not always offer a great deal of attacking impetus on the right, especially in the first half even though he did have a shot saved. However, that improved after the break. Moved to the left side after Hakimi’s introduction and got the match-winning goal after making a good run. Defensively was solid throughout, making the most number of tackles on the day (5).
Matteo Darmian vs. Cagliari:
100% shot accuracy
6 duels won
5 tackles (most)
2 ball recoveries
1 foul won
Such an important goal for Inter. pic.twitter.com/zYmU90IFOo
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) April 11, 2021
Christian Eriksen: 7/10
After a subdued display in a deeper role last time out, the former Tottenham man had more freedom to express himself against Cagliari which he did. Forced a brilliant save from the goalkeeper early on and had another shot saved in the second period. Delivered some dangerous set-pieces into the box as well, one of which saw De Vrij hit the bar. Finished with 96% passes completed and one key pass.
Marcelo Brozovic: 6.5/10
Back into the side after serving out his suspension, the Croatian international ensured Inter Milan never lost control of the game. Put in the hard yards off the ball to prevent any counters. Got on the ball and tried to set his teammates on their way. Booked for a rash foul on Joao Pedro.
Stefano Sensi: 7/10
A rare start for the 25-year-old who has endured an injury-riddled campaign and he looked bright. Drove the team forward positively when on the ball and looked to create openings for his attackers, playing a joint-game-high three key passes. Came close to scoring early in the second half from distance but was his scorching effort saved. A step in the right direction.
— Inter (@Inter_en) April 11, 2021
Ashley Young: 6/10
Did not have a great deal of defensive work to do on the day, which meant he was camped up in the Cagliari half for large parts. However, couldn’t make the most of it even though he did deliver three key passes before making way for Hakimi.
Romelu Lukaku: 6.5/10
Wasn’t able to get into goalscoring positions a lot as Cagliari did well to double up on him. Still managed to feed Sanchez through in the first half but the Chilean had strayed offside before finding the back of the net. Headed narrowly wide after the break before linking up nicely with Hakimi in the buildup to the winning goal.
Alexis Sanchez: 6/10
Handed a rare start ahead of Lautaro Martinez, the former Manchester United man looked lively and energetic at the top. Went a tad bit early that saw his goal get chalked off. Played three key passes even though some of his link-up play wasn’t at its sharpest.
Lautaro Martinez: 6/10
Replaced Sanchez in the 70th minute. Lively. The Argentine caused problems to the Cagliari defence in his short time on the pitch.
Achraf Hakimi: 7/10
✅2018/2019: 28 games, 3 goals & 7 assists
✅2019/2020: 45 games, 9 goals & 10 assists
✅2020/2021 so far: 37 games, 6 goals & 7 assists
22 years of age. Fantastic numbers. Born to be a wing-back. pic.twitter.com/eWbNZkpzIj
— Football Talent Scout – Jacek Kulig (@FTalentScout) April 11, 2021
Sent on in place of Young in the 70th minute. Looked purposeful, linked up nicely with Lukaku before the cutting the ball back to set Darmian for the winning goal.
Roberto Gagliardini: N/A
Came on to replace Eriksen in the 81st minute as Conte looked to shut up shop.
Matias Vecino: N/A
On for Sensi for the last ten minutes or so.
Danilo D’Ambrosio: N/A
Made his return from a spell out on the sidelines replacing Darmian in the 84th minute.