The final match-day of the Serie A season was set up to be an explosive and captivating day. With everything to fight for there was not a single game which would be considered less important. For Inter their battle with Empoli is one which would determine a couple of things. Inter would secure Champions League qualification with a victory, whereas Empoli needed a victory to secure their position in Italy’s top flight. Like the 2017/18 campaign Inter left their hopes hanging on the final day of play.
Inter moved into the match with question marks over many of the players and coaches future. The Inter fixture meant a lot to many teams, some hoping for an Inter victory. Genoa was hoping that Inter could beat Empoli with the hope they would escape relegation. On the other hand Roma and Milan were hoping for Inter to drop points anticipating their own Champions League qualification.
With so much on the line, both teams failed to start the match on the front foot. It would take some time for both teams to find their momentum. The match was looking to be one of attrition as both teams struggled. Inter should have taken the lead in the 29th minute following an Inter corner. The ball was sent into the box; De Vrij heads the ball directly towards goal, with Dragowski stopping the shot. The Empoli stopper ensures that both teams went into the break with the scores locked at 0-0. With all the matches running at the same time, Inter were sitting in 5th place at this point in time.
The second half would determine the fate of both of these teams, and it was expected to entertain. Within 6 minutes of play resuming, substitute Keita Balde scored a stunning goal from outside the box. Balde struck it hard and low into the bottom right corner past the goal keeper giving Inter the crucial lead. Inter would look to double their lead when a penalty was awarded to them following a goal keeping error. Replays would show that the keeper got the ball, and a penalty should not have been awarded. VAR intervened and the initial decision stood. Icardi would step up to take the shot, only to be blocked by Dragowski, and the score remained 1-0.
This ultimate gave Empoli the hope that they were looking for all match. Empoli continued to push men forward and their persistence paid dividends in the 76th minute. Ucan runs the ball wides, sending it low into the box, where Traore is there to convert the shot. With the scores now tied at 1-1 Inter had only 15 minutes to score to ensure their Champions League qualification.
It took Inter all but 5 minutes to regain the 1 goal advantage in the match. Vecino took a shot from just outside the box, striking the post. Nainggolan was there to claim the rebound and tap the ball into the back of the net. With only 9 minutes left of regular time, it looked like Inter would secure that 4th spot on the table.
Empoli continued to press Inter in the remaining moments of the half. They were almost rewarded for their efforts when a D’Ambrosio block almost ended up in the net. The difference between Champion’s League and Europa league was minimal, striking the post.
Inter had looked to have secured a 3-1 victory deep into injury time. Empoli brought all of their players up for a corner kick, including their keeper. The corner was misplaced, and the ball landed at the feet of Brozovic, who continued up field. Following his shot from half way the ball rolled into the net. The goal was initially awarded until VAR intervened and ruled a foul on Dragowski by Balde. Ultimately it was apparent that Dragowski would never reach the ball, but the referee awarded a free kick. On top of this Balde received a second yellow card, bringing Inter down to 10 men in the dying moments of the half. The final whistle would blow and Inter would secure the second consecutive Champions League qualification.
Inter entered this match with their fate in their own hands. Too many times before have we witnessed Inter fall at this very point. In what was an extremely competitive Champion’s League race, something suggests the off season will be more entertaining than the season that was, with many questions being answered. Does Spalletti still have a job? If not who is his replacement? Will Icardi leave Inter? Will Perisic find a new team? With Inter now cleared by Financial Fair Play, as well as qualified in the Champions League anything is possible.
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