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Alessandro Garofalo/LaPresse Napoli's Andra Zambo Anguissa reacts during his side's shock loss to Empoli.
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Inter take charge in Italy as Napoli's title bid takes hit after crashing to Empoli loss
Atalanta have also staked their claim as contenders.

LAST UPDATE | Dec 12th 2021, 10:05 PM

INTER MILAN TOOK advantage of their title rivals slipping up with a thumping 4-0 win over Cagliari which ensured they moved top of Serie A.

Reigning champions Inter moved a point ahead of local rivals AC Milan with a statement performance at the San Siro against the Sardinians who had goalkeeper Alessio Cragno to thank the hosts didn’t run up double figures.

Lautaro Martinez’s brace and two more superb goals from Hakan Calhanoglu and Alexis Sanchez extended Inter’s domestic unbeaten run to nine matches and allowed Simone Inzaghi’s team to take charge in Serie A following Milan’s draw at Udinese on Saturday.

Inter are also four points ahead of former leaders Napoli who slip back to fourth following a shock 1-0 home defeat at the hands of surprise team Empoli.

Martinez opened the scoring with a bullet header from Calhanoglu’s corner just before the half hour, and was poised to open a two-goal half-time lead after Cragno brought down the marauding Denzel Dumfries.

Cragno saved Sanchez’s penalty but four minutes after the break the Chilean made amends with a stunning volley after Nicolo Barella hooked over a flashy cross with his back to the penalty area.

Inter put the match to bed with two brilliant goals in two minutes, with Calhanoglu lashing home a powerful strike before Martinez made it 10 for the season in the 68th minute, collecting Barella’s floated pass and dinking home a delicate finish.

Patrick Cutrone’s bizarre winner with 20 minutes remaining in Naples fired promoted Empoli seventh and hit Napoli’s bid for a first title since the days of Diego Maradona.

Cutrone rose highest for a corner and his flick flew at Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa, who minutes after his return from injury headed his clearance into the back of Cutrone’s head and then watched the ball fly back into his own goal.

It was an unfortunate way to lose for Napoli who had 30 shots, struck the bar through Eljif Elmas in the first half and had a Juan Jesus goal ruled out for offside nine minutes before Cutrone’s winner.

“The goal was a set-piece play that we’ve been working on for a long times,” joked coach Aurelio Andreazzoli to DAZN.

Napoli held top spot before last weekend’s matches but have now also been overtaken by Atalanta who moved third with their 2-1 win at Verona.

Napoli travel to Milan next weekend hoping to not fall further behind the pacesetters with key players either out or only just returning from injury.

Atalanta are just three points behind Inter after coming back from Giovanni Simeone’s 12th goal of the season with strikes in either half from Aleksei Miranchuk and Teun Koopmeiners at Verona.

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A sixth straight league win on the road also has Gian Piero Gasperini’s side seven points above fifth-placed Fiorentina in the race for the Champions League.

“Today we took a step forward, regarding mentality and determination, otherwise you don’t win these kinds of matches,” said Gasperini.

The hard-fought win will be a boost for Atalanta after they missed out on the last 16 of the Champions League following Thursday’s home defeat at the hands of Villarreal.

They will be in Monday’s draw for the Europa League play-off round after finishing third in Group F behind La Liga outfit Villarreal and Manchester United.

First published today at 20.36, updated with Inter Milan result 


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