Inter returned to winning methods and seized on Atalanta dropping points on Sunday, as a 5-1 victory away to Cagliari fired Stefano Pioli’s side into the European qualification places in Serie A.
Two defeats inside the final 4 league games – against heavyweights Juventus and Roma – had dampened Inter’s spirits just after a run of seven consecutive Serie A wins, but an Ivan Perisic-inspired triumph in Sardinia lifted the Nerazzurri to fifth ahead of Lazio playing later inside the day.
Cagliari had won at San Siro earlier in the campaign, in the final weeks of Frank de Boer’s ill-fated tenure, but Inter took full handle with the return fixture as Ever Banega made the opener for Perisic and fired a excellent second himself.
Even though the household side hit back via Marco Borriello, Perisic grabbed his second shortly just after half-time to provide the guests breathing space when once more.
Cagliari rarely looked like mounting a comeback, alternatively enabling Maurco Icardi to net away from residence for the initial time since September, his penalty exorcising the demons of a previous miss from 12 yards against Massimo Rastelli’s side.
Inter were then in a position to comfortably cruise by means of the remainder from the second half, Roberto Gagliardini netting his initial goal for the club to add gloss towards the scoreline late on, with a essential clash against fourth-placed Atalanta, who have been held to a 0-0 draw at property to Fiorentina earlier in the day and are now just one point ahead, to come subsequent week.
A magnificent Gary Medel intervention denied Cagliari an early lead as the Chile international recovered to acrobatically clear Joao Pedro’s lobbed work inches in the goal-line.
Perisic swung a low cross in for Icardi to toe wide at the other end, just before Geoffrey Kondogbia’s looping header was helped onto the crossbar by Gabriel.
Immediately after 34 minutes, Perisic then fired Pioli’s men in front.
Banega lifted a delightful left-footed pass between two defenders and into the Cagliari region, exactly where Perisic controlled delicately with his left foot and slotted a clever finish beneath the goalkeeper.
And Banega added a second just 5 minutes later when he curled a fine free-kick inside the left-hand post from 20 yards, with Gabriel scrambling hopelessly across his line.
The hosts sought an instant response and, even though Samir Handanovic expertly clawed away Davide Di Gennaro’s free-kick, a target would quickly arrive when Borriello nodded Nicolo Barella’s cross into the net.
Handanovic held another header from Artur Ionita, but, immediately after just two minutes of the second half, Cagliari’s tough perform was undone by a third Nerazzurri aim.
Perisic was once again the scorer, stepping inside onto his appropriate foot to coolly curl beyond Gabriel’s despairing dive.
The goalkeeper was in a position to prevent a fourth as he dived at Icardi’s feet from Antonio Candreva’s centre, and then saved spectacularly as Danilo D’Ambrosio let fly from distance.
Miranda headed straight at Gabriel as he met Perisic’s cross unmarked, however the keeper’s brave resistance was breached as he brought Icardi down within the region.
The Inter captain converted the penalty himself, just before Gabriel saved once again from Kondogbia’s powerful strike and blocked a tame work from substitute Eder.
Icardi then rattled the crossbar because the guests kept the pressure on inside the closing stages, and Gagliardini added his name to the scoresheet having a low blast two minutes from time, opening his account for Inter and netting for the initial time in Serie A.