Inter overcome Udinese to stay on heels of leaders Milan
Inter Milan still have a say in this season’s Serie A title race after winning 2-1 at Udinese to stay two points behind league leaders AC Milan.
Ivan Perisic and Lautaro Martinez made sure that the champions bounced back from Wednesday’s traumatic defeat at Bologna and stayed on the heels of their local rivals who earlier were fired to a 1-0 win over Fiorentina by Rafael Leao.
Milan need seven points from their final three games to snatch the Scudetto from their local rivals as they have the better of the two league derbies with Inter, meaning the seven-time European champions would stay ahead of Inter should they end up locked on the same points.
However Sunday’s match was the toughest left in Inter’s run-in, while Milan have to play Verona and Atalanta in their bid to secure the crown.
And Simone Inzaghi’s side dealt well with a tricky team who had rattled in 17 goals in their six games in April, taking the lead in the 12th minute through Perisic’s header and doubling their advantage seven minutes before half-time.
After Martinez was denied Edin Dzeko made the most of contact from Pablo Mari’s lunging tackle and earned his team a penalty, which thwacked against the post by Martinez before the Argentine nodded in on the rebound.
Ignacio Pussetto pulled one back for the hosts after Gerard Deulofeu had crashed a free-kick off the woodwork, but Inter held on to claim the points.
– Leao keeps Milan top –
Portugal forward Leao struck with eight minutes remaining against Fiorentina to ensure Milan are still favourites for a first Scudetto since 2011 and unleash a wave of relief at a packed San Siro.
“It’s the best moment of my career as a player,” Leao told DAZN after his 10th league goal of the season.
Until Leao scored it had looked to be a frustrating day for the hosts, Olivier Giroud missing the first of a series of good chances with 15 minutes on the clock when he somehow fluffed his dinked finish wide after being slipped perfectly through by Franck Kessie.
Nerves started to get to the home fans after a series of misplaced passes in good positions curtailed promising attacks, and the huge crowd had their heads in their hands two minutes after the break when Leao smashed over from close range after being fed by Giroud.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic was introduced in the 65th minute in an attempt to force the winner, and after Mike Maignan saved Arthur Cabral’s 76th-minute header Leao made it party time.
He collected Viola goalkeeper Pietro Terracciano’s awful kick, charged towards goal and slotted home a finish which could be crucial to an enthralling title race.
– Juve eye Champions League –
Leonardo Bonucci put Juve on the brink of Champions League football with a double in their 2-1 win over Venezia which also dealt a huge blow to the survival hopes of Serie A’s bottom team.
Italy defender Bonucci struck in each half at the Allianz Stadium to put Juve 10 points clear of fifth-placed Lazio, who occupy the Europa League spot, while Roma are a further point back in sixth ahead of their home match with Bologna later on Sunday.
Anything but a win for Jose Mourinho’s Roma will confirm Juve’s place in Europe’s top club competition.
“We needed the win to make sure that the last three games aren’t too difficult,” said Bonucci to Sky Sport Italia.
Venezia are six points behind Cagliari, who sit just outside the relegation zone, and have a game in hand on Thursday at in-form Salernitana.