Antonio Candreva starred as Inter won away from home for the first time in almost three months with a 1-0 victory at Sassuolo in Serie A, playing out the final few minutes with 10 men.
Since beating Empoli on September 21, the Nerazzurri had lost seven of eight away games in all competitions, drawing once against arch-rivals AC Milan at San Siro.
However, while Sassuolo had come out on top in each of the previous three meetings between these two sides, they have struggled in recent weeks and went into the match with one win in their last 12 competitive matches.
And Candreva was in inspired form for Inter on Sunday, terrorising the hosts in the first half before opening the scoring after the break.
The Italy international had already struck the post and laid on a glorious opportunity for Mauro Icardi when he smashed a rebound past Andrea Consigli after 47 minutes.
Inter pushed for a late second but Ivan Perisic was unable to take their best chances, and victory was soured by the dismissal of Felipe Melo for a second yellow card in second-half stoppage time.
— F.C. Internazionale (@Inter_en) December 18, 2016
Candreva mustered the first shot on target as Consigli parried away his awkward, dipping 25-yard strike.
After a relatively slow start, that effort prompted a spell of Inter pressure and Candreva’s next deflected attempt crashed back off the post, with Consigli this time beaten.
The hosts finally responded as the half-hour mark approached, but Federico Ricci blazed over from Antonino Ragusa’s cross, while Lorenzo Pellegrini’s blast on the turn ricocheted into Samir Handanovic’s arms.
Icardi should have nodded Inter in front, but, rising to meet Candreva’s delivery unmarked, he directed a header narrowly past the right-hand post.
Back came Sassuolo, and Gregoire Defrel brought the best out of Handanovic as the goalkeeper tipped away a stretching volley from Stefano Sensi’s measured pass.
Candreva, so often central to the action, accelerated away down the right, teeing up Perisic to shoot low at Consigli, before Icardi lashed the rebound wide.
Inter finally took the lead just two minutes after half-time.
Consigli saved low from Joao Mario’s thump, but, with the rebound not cleared, Candreva followed in to rattle a finish high into the net.
Sassuolo remained a threat on the break, though, and Handanovic was again tested as he blocked Sensi’s firm right-footed volley.
Miranda marginally escaped the ignominy of a costly late error, smashing a clearance from Ragusa’s low drive narrowly wide of his own goal after an unanticipated deflection.
Inter renewed their earlier attacking efforts, though, hunting for a second, with Perisic twice shooting too close to the advancing Consigli as he was sent clear of the Sassuolo back-line.
Stefano Pioli’s side finished the match with 10 men after Melo received his second booking for a foul on Francesco Acerbi, but victory, temporarily at least, sends them up to seventh.
Key Opta stats:
– Inter have won two games in a row in Serie A for the first time since September and secured back-to-back clean sheets for the first time this season.
– Candreva has scored three goals in seven games against Sassuolo: he scored more only against Palermo, Chievo and Inter in Serie A.
– Icardi has delivered five assists in Serie A this season: his record is six in the 2014-15.
– Since 2008-09, Felipe Melo has received the most red cards in Serie A (nine).
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