Calamity in Calabria as Crotone dent Inter's Euro hopes
Diego Falcinelli hit a dramatic first-half brace to dent Inter Milan's hopes of European football as Crotone launched their Serie A survival bid with a gutsy 2-1 win Sunday.
A week after a 2-1 home defeat to Sampdoria extinguished any realistic hopes of qualifying for the Champions League, Inter's chances of even qualifying for Europe are now hanging by a thread.
Falcinelli beat Samir Handanovic from the penalty spot on 19 minutes and the on-loan Sassuolo striker completed his brace three minutes later to leave Inter stunned as they headed in for the half-time interval.
Inter defender Danilo D'Ambrosio reduced arrears in the 65th minute, but after a string of late misses Stefano Pioli's men had to settle for a 10th league loss that, coupled with AC Milan's 4-0 win over Palermo, could cause considerable damage to their European hopes.
AC Milan had Suso, Mario Pasalic, Carlos Bacca and Gerard Deulofeu to thank for the goals in a solid San Siro display that moved the Rossoneri up to sixth place.
Milan are now just two points behind Atalanta, in the final Europa League qualifying spot, with Inter moving the other way to sit four points behind the high-flying Bergamo side.
Although leaders Juventus moved nine points clear of the pack with a 2-0 win over Chievo on Saturday, when Gonzalo Higuain hit his second brace in as many outings, the Turin giants haven't secured their record sixth consecutive scudetto yet.
Goals by Federico Fazio and Mohamed Salah gave Roma a 2-0 first-half lead at Bologna and striker Edin Dzeko tapped home an easy third on 75 minutes as Luciano Spalletti's men restored their six-point deficit.
Napoli are now seven points further behind, and travel to Lazio later Sunday for a high-risk game that will see the hosts move to within a point of third place with a win at the Stadio Olimpico.
Crotone's first league win since January came away at Chievo last week, when Falcinelli hit an 82nd minute winner.
On Sunday, the Calabrians had Inter in disarray from kick-off.
A Gary Medel handball following a mistimed his challenge on Falcinelli gave Crotone a 19th minute spot-kick that Falcinelli fired past Handanovic, who got a touch on the ball.
Three minutes later Falcinelli sprung the offside trap on a Marcello Trotta ball, drawing handanovic out before lobbing the ball into the empty net.
Handanovic denied Marcus Rohden down low with his legs and moments later Joao Miranda made a goalline clearance from the Crotone midfielder with his chest.
Inter's first chance of the half came in stoppages, when Cristian Ansaldi flashed a header across the face of goal.
D'Ambrosio pulled Inter back into it when he volleyed home Geoffrey Kondogbia's nod-down at a corner past Alex Cordaz from close range.
But the Inter defender, who signed a new contract extension until 2021 in midweek, was lucky to go unpunished after upending Falcinelli in spectacular fashion on the edge of the area moments later.
Somehow, Gianpaolo Calvarese waved play on and the referee responded to Crotone coach Nicola's angry protests by sending him to the stands.
Inter finally had some momentum, but Eder's strike came off the far post and Rodrigo Palacio fired straight at Cordaz on the turn.
At the other end Handanovic dived to parry Maxwell Acosty's curling drive on the counter, but his efforts went for nothing when Ivan Perisic then Miranda fired wide in the dying minutes.