Inter to have Milan derby Scudetto shot despite Cagliari draw

Inter Milan’s Armenian midfielder #22 Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Cagliari’s Angolan forward #77 Zito Luvumbo vie during the Italian Serie A football match between Inter Milan and Cagliari, at San Siro Stadium in Milan, on April 14, 2024. AFP

Inter Milan will have a chance to win the Serie A title in the Milan derby despite slipping to a 2-2 home draw with lowly Cagliari on Sunday.

Nicolas Viola snatched a potentially huge draw in 14th-placed Cagliari’s bid for Serie A survival as Inter failed to extend their 14-point lead at the top of the league after their closest challengers AC Milan drew a spectacular match at Sassuolo 3-3.

Viola struck with seven minutes remaining at the San Siro, shortly after Hakan Calhanoglu had fired Inter back into the lead from the penalty spot following Eldor Shomurodov’s 64th minute strike which levelled Marcus Thuram’s early opener.

A win would have meant Inter needing only a draw in the Milan derby on Monday week to beat their local rivals to a 20th league crown.

Sunday’s draw leaves Inter having to win a sixth straight derby against their city rivals if they are to claim the Scudetto with five matches remaining.

It also officially ends Inter’s bid to beat the single-season Serie A points record of 102 set by Juventus in 2014.

Regardless, save for an unprecendented collapse, it is simply a matter of time until Simone Inzaghi’s team will win the league, and it could yet come in the derby.

That would be a bitter pill for Milan, who have not been in the title race as Inter have charged off into the distance since the turn of the year.

Noah Okafor salvaged a hard-fought point for Milan in the 84th minute on a hot spring day in Reggio Emilia.

Coach Stefano Pioli made a raft of changes in the wake of a first-leg defeat to Roma in the Europa League quarter-finals and his team were two goals behind after less than 10 minutes following early strikes from Andrea Pinamonti and Armand Lauriente.

Frenchman Lauriente struck again seven minutes after the break to ultimately ensure the point that lifted second-from-bottom Sassuolo to within two points of safety.

Milan visit Rome on Thursday trying to overturn a single-goal deficit, ahead of the derby and a trip to third-placed Juventus the following weekend.

“I believe 100 percent in my team, we have men of quality, we are a really good team,” said goalscorer Okafor.

“Now have to focus… for sure we are going to Rome to win.”

Ndicka ‘feeling better’

Roma said that defender Evan Ndicka is recovering from an on-pitch collapse with an apparent chest problem which caused play at his team’s match at Udinese to be abandoned.

“Evan is feeling better and is in good spirits. He will remain in the hospital for further observations,” said Roma on social media, alongside a photo of Ndicka flexing his right bicep while sat upright in a hospital bed in Udine.

Ivory Coast’s Ndicka dropped to the ground with an apparent chest problem in the 70th minute with the teams level at 1-1 after Roma striker Romelu Lukaku levelled Roberto Pereyra’s first-half opener in the 64th minute.

Coach Daniele De Rossi then spoke to his players, referee Luca Pairetto and his Udinese counterpart Gabriele Cioffi.

After long discussions on the touchline with Roma staff, Pairetto decided to suspend play.

Serie A told AFP that the final minutes of the match will be played at a later date, yet to be confirmed, leaving Roma on 55 points in fifth place.

De Rossi’s side are in a strong position to reach next season’s Champions League as they are five points ahead of sixth-placed Atalanta.

A top-five finish will almost certainly yield a spot in Europe’s top club competition thanks to Serie A teams’ performances on the continent.

Napoli’s slim chances of finishing in that five were dealt another blow after a 2-2 home draw with struggling Frosinone left the ailing champions six points behind Roma in eighth.

Walid Cheddira’s first brace in Italy’s top flight earned a point for Frosinone while Matteo Politano and Victor Osimhen were on target for Napoli.

Frosinone stay just inside the bottom three and level on 27 points with 17th-placed Verona, who are outside the relegation zone on goal difference and face Atalanta on Monday.

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