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Inter draws 1-1 with Cagliari as title challenge falters

(AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)

By DANIELLA MATAR

Associated Press

MILAN (AP) Inter Milan’s title challenge took another blow after the team was held 1-1 by Cagliari in Serie A on Sunday as its traditional midseason slump appears to have taken hold again.

Radja Nainggolan, who is on loan from Inter, came back to haunt his former club when he scored the equalizer 12 minutes from time to cancel out Lautaro Martínez’s opener - which was set up by new Nerazzurri signing Ashley Young.

Second-place Inter could find itself six points behind Juventus if Maurizio Sarri’s side wins at Napoli later. Third-place Lazio moved within two points of Inter following a 1-1 draw with Roma in the Rome derby.

It was Inter’s third successive draw in Serie A. Since 2013, Inter has only once managed to win more than one league match in January.

“We often lose awareness because of tiredness,” Inter goalkeeper Samir Handanovic said. “But we could have finished off these matches earlier.

“We have made mistakes that we shouldn’t be doing if we want to aim for something important. I’m not worried because we’re creating chances. We’re lacking a bit of quality in finishing, but it’s more worrying when you don’t create them.”

Young, who was making his debut after joining from Manchester United, had an immediate impact. He crossed the ball for Martínez to head in at the far post in the 29th minute.

Young had no assists in the Premier League this season.

Inter wasted a number of opportunities to extend its advantage and was made to pay for its profligacy as Nainggolan’s strike from outside the area was deflected in off the base of the left post.

It got worse for Inter as Martínez was sent off in stoppage time after being shown a yellow card for dissent and an immediate second for something else he said to the referee. Martínez had to be dragged off the pitch and Inter players and staff surrounded the referee after the final whistle.

Inter coach Antonio Conte did not talk to the media after the match because he was not feeling well, according to the club, and Handanovic was the only player to speak.

“Certainly we didn’t lose because of the referee, we only complained because he didn’t blow for any foul against our attackers while for them he did,” the Inter captain added.

“We’re not blaming the referee for our draw, we should try to finish off the matches before and in that case we wouldn’t be talking about all this."

Questionable goalkeeping contributed to a 1-1 draw in the derby between Roma and Lazio - a result that dented Lazio’s Italian league title hopes and left Roma hanging precariously on to the final Champions League spot.

First, Lazio goalkeeper Thomas Strakosha charged forward to grab a high ball but misjudged his timing, allowing Roma striker Edin Džeko to connect on a header from near the penalty spot that bounced off the post into the empty net.

Then Roma counterpart Pau Lopez punched a corner away above his goal but the ball bounced back down onto the crossbar and off the head of Roma defender Chris Smalling, allowing Lazio center back Francesco Acerbi to knock it in.

Lazio remained third after seeing its 11-match winning streak end but missed out on a chance to pull level with second-place Inter.

Roma remained fourth, moving just one point ahead of high-scoring Atalanta.

Parma moved up to seventh after a 2-0 win over Udinese with goals from Riccardo Gagliolo and Dejan Kulusevski, whose rights were recently acquired by Juventus.

Hellas Verona is two points further back in ninth after a 3-0 victory over Lecce, with goals from Paweł Dawidowicz, Matteo Pessina and Giampaolo Pazzini.

Also, Sampdoria and Sassuolo drew 0-0.

AP Sports writer Andrew Dampf in Rome contributed.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Updated January 26, 2020

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