Milan, Jan 10 (IANS) Leaders Inter Milan slipped to a last-gasp 0-1 defeat against Sassuolo as Domenico Berardi slotted home from the penalty spot with virtually the last kick of the Serie A game here on Sunday afternoon.
With this win, Sassuolo jumped to sixth spot with 31 points from 18 matches — three points behind fifth-placed AS Roma, who have played a game more. Inter (39 points), who suffered their fourth loss of the campaign, may lose their top spot to Napoli (38 points) or defending champions Juventus (36 points) later in the day.
In a pulsating contest at the San Siro Stadium, Sassuolo goalkeeper Andrea Consigli pulled off a string of impressive saves to deny Inter what would have been a deserved goal. And with the seconds ticking away, it was a tangle of legs between Miranda and Grégoire Defrel that led to the all-important penalty.
There had been something of a surprise when the team-sheets were announced, as Roberto Mancini named an unchanged side for the first time this season. Inter started well, Gary Medel finding Mauro Icardi in behind on three minutes only for the Argentine’s weak shot to trickle wide.
Two minutes later and it was Adem Ljajic’s turn to shake his head — the Serbian had been teed up by Icardi in the box, but lashed his strike just past the post.
Sassuolo sprang into life on 12 minutes as Nicola Sansone fired a vicious free-kick towards the Inter goal, but Samir Handanovic got across well to make the save. Nine minutes later, Aldred Duncan swung in a dangerous cross from the left for Simone Missiroli, but again Handanovic made himself big to make the save.
It was proving to be an entertaining match, and Ljajic continued his personal battle with Consigli as the Sassuolo man produced an astounding fingertip save to keep out the Serbian’s curling effort a few minutes before half-time.
The second half brought no changes for either side. Inter continued to attack, Marcelo Brozovic seeing his effort blocked before Danilo D’Ambrosio’s cross was deflected onto the roof of the goal. Ljajic worked Consigli again on 62 minutes, but his powerful shot was too central to worry the Sassuolo keeper.
The chances came thick and fast for the Nerazzurri: first Ljajic threatened from a free-kick, then Jeison Murillo lashed a snap shot wide from point-blank range. Geoffrey Kondogbia came close with a long-range effort, before Ljajic again looked for goal with his left foot, only to be denied once more.
Rodrigo Palacio was thrown on for Ivan Perisic and came within a whisker of giving Inter the lead seconds afterwards, Federico Peluso sliding in to block the Argentine’s effort on the line. With five minutes to go, Ljajic saw another effort tipped over by the inspired Consigli, before substitute Stevan Jovetic also fell foul of the goalie’s lightning-quick reactions.
It looked as if Inter were going to have to settle for a point, but there was to be a sting in the tail as Miranda clashed with Defrel in the box. The referee pointed to the spot and Berardi held his nerve to break Inter hearts.