Football: Inter slump to Sassuolo defeat to miss out on Serie A top spot

It was the latest triumph for Sassuolo at one of Italy's big three after also winning at Milan and Juventus this season. PHOTO: REUTERS

MILAN (AFP) - Inter Milan missed the chance to reclaim the Serie A summit on Sunday (Feb 20) after falling to a 2-0 home defeat by giant-killers Sassuolo which allowed rivals AC Milan to keep top spot.

First-half strikes from Giacomo Raspadori and Gianluca Scamacca gave Sassuolo an impressive win at the San Siro which left Inter two points behind Milan, who had opened the door for their local rivals with Saturday's draw at bottom side Salernitana. Inter, though, have a game in hand.

It was the latest triumph for Sassuolo at one of Italy's big three after also winning at Milan and Juventus this season.

"We created a lot and we conceded a fair amount too, but we know we have quality so we faced them head on," said Sassuolo coach Alessio Dionisi to DAZN.

"That's what we wanted to do and we were rewarded for it."

The ball is now in Napoli's court in an exciting three-way title race as Luciano Spalletti's side, who sit a point behind Inter in third, can move top on goal difference with a win at Cagliari on Monday evening.

Simone Inzaghi's side were missing midfield lynchpin Marcelo Brozovic and starting centre-back Alessandro Bastoni to suspension and looked tired after the midweek Champions League defeat by Liverpool.

"We'll try to recover some physical and mental energy. We're still in the fight, there are still 13 matches left and we want to keep going," said Inzaghi.

Inter's current fragility was exposed in the eighth minute when Domenico Berardi pinched the ball from Hakan Calhanoglu and fed Raspadori who hit a low shot which squirmed home past goalkeeper Samir Handanovic.

And Scamacca, who is hotly tipped to move to Inter alongside teammate Davide Frattesi in the summer, stunned the home fans when he drifted into the area unmarked and headed home his 10th Serie A goal of the season from Hamed Traore's inswinging cross.

The away side could have easily been three goals up at the break, as Berardi thumped a beautiful shot off the bar in the 38th minute.

However Inter only had themselves to blame for not having made more of a game of it, as a wave of second-half pressure brought enough chances to at least escape with a draw.

The worst offender was Lautaro Martinez, who left Inter fans opened-mouthed in the 72nd minute when he somehow poked wide with an open goal at his mercy.

Earlier, Krzysztof Piatek helped Fiorentina fans forget Dusan Vlahovic by firing his new team firmly into the Champions League race with the only goal in a 1-0 win over off-form Atalanta.

Polish international Piatek netted a well-taken fifth goal in six appearances in all competitions since returning to Italy from Mainz last month to move Fiorentina up to seventh, five points behind fourth-place Juventus.

Krzysztof Piatek fired his new team firmly into the Champions League race with the only goal in a 1-0 win over off-form Atalanta. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Vincenzo Italiano's side also have a game in hand on Juve, whose 1-1 draw with Torino on Friday had given Atalanta, missing attackers Duvan Zapata, Josip Ilicic and Luis Muriel, the chance to move up one place into fourth with a win in Florence.

However, they offered very little once Ruslan Malinovskyi was denied a leveller shortly after going behind after Hans Hateboer was deemed to have strayed marginally offside when making a run and was judged to have interfered with play.

That decision so enraged coach Gian Piero Gasperini that he was sent off and refused to speak to media afterwards, while the club posted an image of the move highlighting Malinovskyi's onside position with the message "judge for yourself".

Atalanta announced on Friday that a group of American investors had agreed to purchase 55 per cent of La Dea, the holding company run by the Percassi family which holds 86 per cent of Atalanta's share capital.

The club did not say how much the investors led by Stephen Pagliuca - co-owner of NBA basketball team Boston Celtics and co-chairman of Bain Capital which manages around US$155 billion (S$208.5 billion) in assets - had paid for 47.3 per cent of the club.

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