Inter title hopes all but over after ‘gifting’ Bologna surprise win

MILAN: Inter Milan’s Croatian defender Marcelo Brozovic (down) vies with Bologna’s Italian midfielder Roberto Soriano during the Italian Serie A football match between Inter Milan and Bologna played behind closed doors at the Giuseppe-Meazza San Siro stadium in Milan. – AFP

MILAN: Inter Milan coach Antonio Conte said his team “gifted” Bologna a 2-1 win on Sunday after they blew a goal and a man advantage to see their Serie A title challenge all but ended in dramatic fashion. Antonio Conte’s men needed a win to move back to within eight points of leaders Juventus, and one of second-placed Lazio, but despite leading through Romelu Lukaku’s 20th league goal of the campaign and playing against 10 men, contrived to collapse to defeat.

Juventus sit seven points clear at the top after beating Torino in the Turin derby on Saturday, when second-placed Lazio were thumped by AC Milan. Inter, who also missed a penalty when 1-0 up, are now 11 points off the pace with only eight matches of the season remaining and just one point ahead of fourth-placed Atalanta who beat Cagliari 1-0.

“It’s clear what happened, so there’s not much I can say,” Conte told DAZN. “We all have to take our share of the responsibility, first of all me as the coach, then the players who step onto that pitch. I think we gifted Bologna the game today and it’s not the first time. “We have to ask ourselves questions now, both myself and the players.”

The third-placed hosts forged ahead midway through the first half as Lautaro Martinez headed Ashley Young’s left-wing cross against the post, but Lukaku was on hand to tap in. It was the Belgian’s 20th league goal since joining Inter from Manchester United last year and his 26th in all competitions.

Mid-table Bologna always carried a threat, though, and Riccardo Orsolini twice went close to equalising before half-time. But Inter were gifted a golden opportunity to take total control 12 minutes into the second half when Bologna midfielder Roberto Soriano was sent off for dissent.

A crucial three points appeared almost certain when Martinez stepped up to take a 61st-minute penalty, but the Argentinian striker saw his effort saved by visiting goalkeeper Lukasz Skorupski. That was the cue for Inter, chasing a first league title since winning the treble under Jose Mourinho in 2010, to collapse in the closing stages.

Musa Juwara, on as a substitute, fired home a 74th-minute leveller through the weak attempted save by Inter stopper Samir Handanovic, before the home side also saw their numerical advantage disappear shortly afterwards as Alessandro Bastoni was dismissed for a second yellow card. The comeback was completed with 10 minutes left, as Gambian striker Musa Barrow finished off a sweeping Bologna counter-attack with a fine left-footed shot past Handanovic. Inter piled on the pressure during six minutes of injury time, but failed to rescue even a point, with Alexis Sanchez denied by Skorupski.

Atalanta were not at their free-flowing best but still did enough to claim their 10th straight win in all competitions against 10-man Cagliari. Gian Piero Gasperini’s men looked set to battle Roma for the fourth and final Champions League place when Serie A restarted following the coronavirus lockdown, but are now closer to leaders Juventus than they are to the capital club.

Luis Muriel scored what proved to be the winner from the penalty spot in the 27th minute after teenage Cagliari defender Andrea Carboni was sent off. Napoli moved level on points with Roma after Lorenzo Insigne’s strike eight minutes from time grabbed Gennaro Gattuso’s men a 2-1 win over the fifth-placed outfit.

Jose Callejon put Napoli ahead 10 minutes after half-time at the Stadio San Paolo, and although Henrikh Mkhitaryan equalised with his seventh league goal of the season, Insigne had the final say with a magnificent curling strike from the corner of the area. Elsewhere, Brescia moved off the foot of the table and kept their survival hopes alive by beating Verona 2-0, their first victory since last December. They are now six points from safety after 17th-placed Genoa rescued a 2-2 draw at Udinese thanks to Andrea Pinamonti’s 97th-minute leveller. – AFP

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