x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Cagliari are at home even when away but Inter Milan's problems mount

Ian Hawkey looks at the contrast of the nomads winning as depleted Inter Milan struggle.

Cagliari's Mauricio Pinilla celebrates with his teammates. Andrea Lasorte / EPA
Cagliari's Mauricio Pinilla celebrates with his teammates. Andrea Lasorte / EPA

By the time Mauricio Pinilla struck Cagliari's second goal against Inter Milan, there was little doubt about which was the marooned team in the contest.

Cagliari, playing at "home" in Trieste because of the continuing difficulties they have had in locating a functional stadium in Sardinia, have become rather effective as nomads, comfortable in accumulating results without the noise of a partisan crowd backing them.

The 2-0 win was their third in successive "home" matches that have either been played without spectators, or in Sunday's case, more than 800 kilometres from their own city.

Then again, they were up against a team in free fall, and when Inter are in a crisis, there is always a good chance that the law of the Ex will hurt them.

Because of Inter's extravagant and sometimes haphazard buying policy over the last two decades, dozens of former Inter men have starred or scored against them in the colours of opponents to whom they later moved. Pinilla extended that tradition, with a little twist.

The Chilean, who was brought over to Europe while still in his teens 10 years ago, is a genuine Inter supporter, and has never disguised that fact, even when he has been employed by other Serie A clubs.

Of which Cagliari is the third in a mazy career that has taken him to Sicily, Brazil, Scotland, Cyprus, back briefly to Chile, and to Spain. Inter loaned him out twice when he was on their books and then sold 50 per cent his rights to Sporting in Lisbon.

Of his 13 clubs in the last nine years, only at Palermo did he clock up more than 30 league appearances. He never played a minute in Serie A for Inter.

He would certainly get into their starting XI right now.

Inter's injury list as they prepare for tonight's Coppa Italia semi-final second leg against Roma, 2-1 down from the away leg, has grown to 13 senior players after Walter Gargano and Yuto Nagatomo withdrew during the Cagliari defeat.

One of the ironies of their collapsing campaign is that, having heard praise for their strategy of belt-tightening, wage reduction and squad pruning over the last year, Inter have good reason to yearn for the days where they had vast rosters full of expensive, underemployed manpower.

The resources currently available are sparse, and at seventh in the table, Inter's prospects of playing any sort of European football next season may now depend on success in the Coppa Italia.

 

sports@thenational.ae