Leonardo Pavoletti’s well-taken volley has given Cagliari the 2-1 half-time lead over Inter after Luca Ceppitelli and Lautaro Martinez headers.
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The pressure was on Luciano Spalletti, who was still without Mauro Icardi – officially due to a knee injury, but it was the fifth game missed since he was stripped of the captaincy. Both teams were furious after controversial penalty awards cost them last week, the Nerazzurri held 3-3 by Fiorentina, which allowed Milan and Roma to move within two and three points respectively. Alessandro Deiola was suspended with Valter Birsa, Lucas Castro, Alberto Cerri, Ragnar Klavan and Filippo Romagna injured.
Inter are unbeaten in Sardinia since a 2-0 result in April 2013, followed by three victories and a draw.
It was a very aggressive start from the hosts with Artur Ionita’s diving header wide, while Ivan Perisic hit his half-volley too well and it was straight at Alessio Cragno.
Luca Cigarini ran a huge risk, as he should’ve received a second yellow card for his trip on Radja Nainggolan only 12 minutes in, but the referee was lenient as it was so early in the game.
All Serie A games this weekend will halt at the 13th minute to remember Davide Astori, who died a year ago on Monday. DA13 spent much of his career at Cagliari, so it was a particularly moving occasion here with his name chanted by the crowd.
Samir Handanovic did well to beat away a Leonardo Pavoletti strike and Joao Pedro fouled Milan Skriniar as he tried to get on the rebound from six yards.
Sardinian penalty appeals were waved away, as the ball bounced off Pavoletti’s arm first on to Kwadwo Asamoah’s arm on a corner.
Cagliari did eventually break through with centre-back Luca Ceppitelli’s towering header meeting the Cigarini free kick to slot into the far bottom corner.
Moments later, it was almost 2-0 for the hosts, but Handanovic got down for a fantastic one-handed save on Joao Pedro’s strike, then Paolo Faragò ballooned the follow-up over the bar.
However, Inter got back on level terms with a well-worked move. Radja Nainggolan whipped in a cross from the right and Lautaro Martinez got in front of his marker for a glancing header at the near post, which squirmed through Cragno’s legs.
Faragò wasted another golden opportunity, this time shinning wide unmarked at the back post, then Cragno stuck out a leg to prevent an own goal with panicked defending on Perisic’s low cross.
Cagliari did restore their lead with a spectacular Pavoletti low volley amid a crowd of defenders, meeting the Darijo Srna cross from the right.
Cagliari 2-1 Inter (Half-Time)
Ceppitelli 31 (C), Lautaro Martinez 38 (I), Pavoletti 43 (C)
Cagliari: Cragno; Srna, Pisacane, Ceppitelli, Pellegrini; Faragò, Cigarini, Ionita; Barella; Joao Pedro, Pavoletti
Inter: Handanovic; D’Ambrosio, De Vrij, Skriniar, Asamoah; Vecino, Brozovic; Politano, Nainggolan, Perisic; Lautaro Martinez