Inter Milan manager Simone Inzaghi has defended goalkeeper Ionut Radu after his mistake saw the defending champions lose control of the Serie A title race.
The Nerazzurri went into their match against Bologna on Wednesday knowing a win would put them top of the Serie A table with four games left to play, as it was their game in hand over rivals and league leaders AC Milan.
Things got off to a great start too, as Ivan Perisic put the defending champions ahead after just four minutes with an excellent goal, nutmegging Musa Barrow before rifling the ball in at the near post. Inter fans were dreaming of a one-point lead at the top of the table, but they were brought back to reality when Marko Arnautovic headed in from Barrow’s cross.
While a point wouldn’t have sent Inter top, it would have been a decent result, keeping the pressure on rivals AC Milan and that’s what looked to be on its way in the final 10 minutes. And then came the moment that could define Inter’s season.
The Nerazzurri had a thrown in close to their own area, which Perisic played back to Radu. The goalkeeper, starting because Samir Handanovic had suffered a back injury, went to pass the ball across to the other defender but mis-kicked, instead diverting the ball into his own net.
Radu was saved the own goal by Nicola Sansone racing and tapping the ball across the line, but the Romanian could not be spared the low point of potentially costing his side the title. It was a mistake that would, at one point in time, find itself on the own goals and gaffes videos and will likely now be immortalised on YouTube, Twitter and TikTok, unfortunately for Radu.
Could this be the goal that costs Inter Milan the title?
Not a moment Andrei Radu will want to watch back. ?
— Squawka News (@SquawkaNews) April 27, 2022
But Inzaghi was quick to defend Radu after the game, instead focussing on the mistakes the team made for Arnautovic’s equaliser, and how they struggled in front of goal.
“The marking was meant to be tighter, we could also have done better to close down the Musa Barrow cross, because he had a good 10 seconds to choose his spot and put it in. Arnautovic ended up between the third defender and the wing-back,” he told Sky Sport Italia.
“Radu played very well against Empoli, he always trains well, we all have the utmost faith in him. It was an unfortunate incident, but these things can happen and it wouldn’t have been as damaging if we’d been 4-1 up rather than at 1-1.
“He should be reassured that Radu is an excellent goalkeeper with a bright future ahead of him.
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“I think we played a very good first half, with just one error on the Arnautovic goal. We created many chances and deserved a second goal.
“After the break, we were a bit too frenetic and that penalised us. Bologna barely ever went into our penalty area, then once that unfortunate incident occurred with the second goal, we lost our heads a bit. It’s not too surprising, there is so much at stake, it really weighed on them.
“We should’ve passed the ball around more calmly from side to side, finding the spaces, putting in crosses for Dzeko. We had that Correa chance that was right at the goalkeeper, but the real regret is ending the first half at 1-1.”
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With AC Milan having the advantage in head-to-head against Inter as well as the two-point lead, Inzaghi’s men know they need their rivals to drop points in at least two of their final four games if they are to harbour any hopes of retaining their title.
That could be conceivable, as AC Milan have a tough final run in, taking on Fiorentina, Verona and Atalanta before ending the season away to Sassuolo. Inter, on the other hand, must play Udinese, Empoli, Cagliari and Sampdoria in the league but also have the added responsibility of the Coppa Italia final against Juventus.
“We lost our shape a little in the second half, then we had that unfortunate incident and fell apart. We still had chances, D’Ambrosio denied by a goal-line clearance,” Inzaghi added.
“We’ve got to keep our heads now. It’s a tough blow, but we saw how Bologna played today, every game is going to be difficult and two points is a margin we can catch up in four games.
“We have to keep going with our heads held high, because we still have a chance, we’re trailing now and also have a Coppa Italia Final to prepare for.
“Without doubt, there is bitterness, as is normal. We are no longer in charge of our own fate, we have to check what Milan do and try to win our remaining four games.”
Despite the defeat, it is still tough to separate AC Milan and Inter, with Opta’s AI-powered season predictions giving the Rossoneri a 51.94% chance of winning Serie A, while the Nerazzurri are rated at 46.75%.