Conte celebrates goal with players, Inter 11 points ahead
MILAN (AP) — Inter Milan continued the march to its first Serie A title in more than a decade as it beat relegation-threatened Cagliari 1-0 on Sunday.
Defender Matteo Darmian scored the only goal of the match in the 77th minute as Inter found it tougher than expected against a side fighting for Serie A survival.
Coach Antonio Conte ran onto the field to celebrate with his players. The win restored Inter’s 11-point advantage over second-place AC Milan, which won 3-1 at Parma on Saturday.
“I sprinted to go and hug the boys. I want to share in the joy with them and praise them for an immense effort this past week,” Conte said. “The group knows that my staff and I are ready to fight for them and it’s right to share these emotions.”
Juventus beat Genoa 3-1 but the nine-time defending champion remained 12 points behind Inter, which is bidding for a first league title since 2010.
“I keep repeating that there are fewer and fewer games left and each win is worth six points for us,” Conte said. “It’s not easy to be under constant pressure but we’re getting used to it. We’ve grown so much in two years, in all aspects.
“We need to keep playing to win, to continue to pedal to the max. We’re not a team that can afford to make any calculations and I like winning too much ... We’re approaching our goal but we’re not there yet.”
Cagliari, which was five points from safety, was without first-choice goalkeeper Alessio Cragno after he contracted the coronavirus on Italy duty so Guglielmo Vicario made his Serie A debut.
His first save was a tough one in the 11th minute but he managed to push Christian Eriksen’s powerful attempt out.
Inter had the best chances but Vicario managed to keep the score goalless while at the other end Samir Handanović was barely tested.
Stefan de Vrij headed a corner off the bar in the 69th and Inter finally found the breakthrough shortly after. Achraf Hakimi played a one-two with Romelu Lukaku on the right side of the area before rolling across for Darmian to slide in at the back post and fire in from close range.
Juventus got off to the perfect start when Juan Cuadrado mazed his way into the right side of the area and pulled the ball back for Dejan Kulusevski to curl into the far corner with less than four minutes on the clock.
Cristiano Ronaldo improbably hit the post from about a yard out in the buildup to Juve’s second goal, in the 22nd.
Federico Chiesa showed a brilliant turn of pace to sprint forward from midfield and force a save from Mattia Perin. Ronaldo turned the rebound onto the left post from almost point-blank range but Álvaro Morata followed up to score.
Gianluca Scamacca headed in a corner to reduce the deficit four minutes after the break but Weston McKennie sealed the result in the 70th after slipping the offside trap.
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE RACE
The race for the Champions League spots remained unchanged as the top seven clubs in the standings all won.
Atalanta held onto fourth place and the final Champions League berth with a 3-2 victory at Fiorentina following a brace from Duvan Zapata and a winner from Josip Ilicic.
Napoli stayed fifth with a 2-0 win at Sampdoria with goals from Fabian Ruiz and Victor Osimhen.
Sergej Milinković-Savić scored a stoppage-time goal to help sixth-place Lazio win 1-0 at Hellas Verona.
Roma remained seventh after a 1-0 win over visiting Bologna courtesy of a goal from Borja Mayoral.
Bryan Reynolds, a 19-year-old U.S. international, made his first start for Roma after coming to the club from FC Dallas in February.
“He is learning a great deal,” Roma coach Paulo Fonseca said. “But we shouldn’t forget he’s young and just arrived from a totally different style of football. It’s not easy for him.”
Reynolds was replaced midway through the second half by Rick Karsdorp.
“He might have been a little anxious at first but I liked his performance,” Fonseca said, “and he can do well in future.”
AP Sports Writer Andrew Dampf in Rome contributed.
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