Football: Inter Milan's Champions League bid hits a snag

Inter's head coach Stefano Pioli gestures during the Italian Serie A soccer match between Torino FC and Inter Milan at Olimpic Stadium in Turin, Italy, on March 18, 2017.
Inter's head coach Stefano Pioli gestures during the Italian Serie A soccer match between Torino FC and Inter Milan at Olimpic Stadium in Turin, Italy, on March 18, 2017. PHOTO: EPA

Milan (AFP) - Inter Milan's bid for a long-awaited return to the Champions League has moved "further" away after a 2-2 draw with Torino that rang "like a defeat" on Saturday, coach Stefano Pioli said.

Inter travelled to the Stadio Olimpico looking for a precious win as they bid to maintain their drive for a return to Europe's premier club event for the first time since 2012.

But in a match that saw England goalkeeper Joe Hart endure a topsy-turvy night, Torino held on to snatch a point and hold Inter to just their fourth draw of the campaign.

It left Inter in fifth, five points off Napoli in third before a trip by Napoli to Empoli on Sunday that is expected to see Maurizio Sarri's men move eight points ahead of Inter - and closer to securing the third and last Champions League spot.

Lamenting the errors that saw Italy international Eder and Croatia midfielder Ivan Perisic, three times, fail to make the most of late chances, Pioli admitted Inter's European bid is now compromised.

"It's further away, yes, because the teams in front of us are strong and are winning a lot," Pioli said when asked about their top-three chances.

It was Inter's last league fixture before the international break, and Pioli added: "Now we have to recover some energy, we've had quite a demanding period in both physical and mental terms.

"Today I expected more lucidity, but now we have to ready for the final dash."

Hart had been on a charm offensive in midweek when he hinted he could prolong his stay at Torino having joined last summer on a season loan deal from Manchester City.

But Hart had fans on their seats on more than one occasion, and not always for the right reason.

He was to blame for poor control when a shot by French midfielder Geoffrey Kondogbia, which he had stopped, somehow slipped under his hand in the 27th minute to give Inter the lead.

Daniele Baselli's crouching header levelled for Torino just six minutes later, and Torino looked on their way to an upset when Afriyie Acquah beat Samir Handanovic in the Inter net with a superb 59th-minute strike from distance.

Hart then seriously misjudged Cristian Ansaldi's cross from deep on the left when he came out to try and parry it to safety. As the goalkeeper scrambled to get back into position, Antonio Candreva pounced from the right side of the area to fire inside the far post in the 62nd minute.

Hart and Handanovic both went on to make a series of crucial saves during six minutes of injury time as the sides played to a draw which left Torino in 10th place.

But it was Inter who were left lamenting, Candreva telling Inter Channel: "I'm happy for the goal, but not for dropping two precious points. We could have done better.

"It was a draw, but it feels like a defeat. We're feeling pretty bitter."

Inter's loss saw city rivals AC Milan close to within two points after the Rossoneri moved up to sixth with a precious 1-0 win over Genoa at the San Siro, where Chile forward Mati Fernandez hit his maiden goal on his debut appearance at the San Siro.

Milan, missing Carlos Bacca, Alessio Romagnoli and Jose Ernesto Sosa, lost Andrea Bertolacci to injury in the opening minute of the game.

It was a scrappy affair that Vincenzo Montella's hosts dominated, failing to capitalise on clear chances by Lucas Ocampos and Gerard Deulofeu before holding on for a first win since a controversial 2-1 defeat at Juventus.

Juventus, bidding for a record sixth consecutive Serie A title, take an eight-point lead over Roma to Sampdoria on Sunday.