Inter Milan crashed to a second consecutive shock away defeat in Serie A as M’Bala Nzola’s late penalty gave relegation-battling Spezia a huge win to punish the profligate visitors.
The Nerazzurri’s faint Scudetto hopes have almost vanished after Simone Inzaghi’s side picked up one point from their last three away league games against Sampdoria, Bologna and Spezia.
A Champions League trip to Porto awaits on Tuesday for the Milan club, which may well have caused a distraction, but the result leaves them 15 points behind leaders Napoli, who have a game in hand, and at risk of surrendering second place to Lazio should the Romans beat Bologna on Saturday.
Daniel Maldini, son of Rossoneri legend Paolo, came off the bench to fire home the opener before Romelu Lukaku and Nzola both scored late penalties in a dramatic conclusion to the game.
It was a massive result for Spezia, being led by new coach Leonardo Semplici for just the second time, as it lifted them six points clear of the relegation zone.
Bartolomiej Dragowski saved an early Lautaro Martinez penalty and denied the Argentina international several more times as Inter went into the break with 15 shots but no goals to show for it, while they were almost caught out when Kevin Agudelo’s deflected cross-shot dropped onto the bar.
Inter began the second half on the front foot when Martinez finally beat Dragowski with a header, only for the goal to be ruled out for a Lukaku offside in the build-up.
Spezia then scored with their first shot on target when on-loan Milan winger Maldini raced onto an Nzola lay-off to rifle a finish into the bottom corner.
Inzaghi responded with an attack-minded quadruple substitution and the dam eventually broke in the 83rd minute when Denzel Dumfries was tripped in the box and Lukaku – taking over penalty duties from Martinez – dispatched his spot kick to raise hopes of a dramatic late comeback.
However, Dumfries clumsily barged into an opponent just two minutes later to concede a penalty, which Nzola stuck into the top corner to earn Spezia their first Serie A win over the illustrious visitors.
Inter finished the game with 28 shots to the hosts’ four, but only seven were on target and the only path they found to goal was through a penalty – having missed one earlier.
TALKING POINT – AWAY FORM DERAILING INTER’S SEASON
Inter are clearly finding it difficult to find the same level of focus and performance on the road as they do at San Siro, and it’s derailing their season.
Forget the title, the Nerazzurri are facing a big fight to qualify for the Champions League, with Lazio, Roma, AC Milan and Atalanta breathing down their neck, and picking up one point in three away games against Sampdoria, Bologna and Spezia will set alarming bells ringing.
Inter have been criticised this season for their inconsistency and since the turn of the year they have also dropped points against Monza and Empoli. Champions League distractions or not, Inzaghi must find a way to stop this pattern of self-destruction before it sends them tumbling out of the top four.
PLAYER OF THE MATCH – M’BALA NZOLA
Goalkeeper Dragowski is also a strong contender, especially for his first-half performance, but it was Nzola’s contributions that proved decisive.
The striker put in a tireless shift and held the ball up well to relieve pressure on his side at times, and he showed the composure Inter lacked when it counted.
His hold-up play to set up Maldini for the opener was terrific, while he dispatched a high-pressure penalty calmly at the death. A huge performance from the Angolan.
Spezia: Dragowski 9; Caldara 6, Ampadu 7, Nikolaou 7; Amian 7, Zurkowski 6, Bourabia 7, Agudelo 7, Gyasi 5; Shomurodov 6, Nzola 9
Subs: Ekdal 6, Maldini 8, Kovalenko 7, Ferrer 5, Wisniewski N/A
Inter Milan: Handanovic 6; D’Ambrosio 7, Acerbi 7, Bastoni 6; Darmian 6, Barella 6, Brozovic 6, Mkhitaryan 6, Gosens 6; Lukaku 6, Martinez 5
Subs: Dumfries 6, Dimarco 6, Calhanoglu 6, Dzeko 6, Carboni 6
14′ DRAGOWSKI SAVES THE PENALTY!
Fantastic save! Martinez steps up to take the spot kick but it’s not the best, and Dragowski springs to his left to beat it away. Spezia deal with the corner and they’ve got away with that!
33′ SPEZIA HIT THE BAR!
A rare chance for the hosts, but a good one. Agudelo gets to the byline and tries to cross under pressure from Acerbi, but his effort is deflected, loops into the air and drops onto the top of the bar before Inter clear!
47′ LAUTARO GOAL DISALLOWED
Inter almost immediately take the lead! Darmian hangs up a cross into the box and Martinez rises to head home and finally beat Dragowski, but there was an offside earlier in the move. Disallowed.
56′ MALDINI FIRES SPEZIA IN FRONT!
Spezia take a shock lead! Nzola holds the ball up superbly on the edge of the box and lays it off to Maldini, and the substitute rifles a finish into the bottom corner! It all came from a long kick by the goalkeeper. Inzaghi will be furious. The son of the AC Milan legend punishes Inter!
84′ LUKAKU SCORES!
This time Dragowski is beaten! The Belgian takes his spot kick well, dispatching it into the bottom corner and sending the keeper the wrong way. We’re level in Liguria!
87′ NZOLA SCORES!
Incredible, Spezia retake the lead! Nzola takes his penalty well, guiding it into the top corner.
- Lautaro Martinez has missed four of his eight penalties taken since 2021/22 – in the Big-5 European Leagues only Karim Benzema (5/17) has missed more
- Inter have lost eight games in this league, in the three points for a win era (since 1994/95) they have suffered more defeats after 26 #SerieA seasonal games only twice: 11 in 2011/12 and 10 in 1998/99
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