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Inter Leave It Late But Secure Champions League Again

Samir Handanovic

As they are prone to do, Inter made it difficult for themselves before beating Empoli 2-1 at the San Siro to secure Champions League football for next season and send Empoli down.

Inter started the game full of energy and determination, reminiscence of the first half of the Milan Derby, but they could not find a way past Empoli goalkeeper Bartlomiej Dragowski who was in brilliant form.

At halftime, Spalletti brought on the often injured Keita Balde in a masterstroke move as the 24-year-old superbly whipped past Dragowski from outside the penalty area to open the scoring.

The much maligned Mauro Icardi had the chance to sooth nerves worldwide when referee Luca Banti – after a VAR review – deemed Dragowski to have brought him down inside the penalty area. Icardi’s weak spot-kick was comfortably kept out by the Empoli goalkeeper, in what will probably be his last meaningful contribution as an Inter player.

Inter paid for the miss when Traore was left unmarked at the back post to tap in Salih Ucan’s low cross and suddenly Inter were facing the real possibility of Europa League football next season.

But then with 9 minutes left in the game, as Radja Nainggolan scored, but Inter being Inter, they nearly threw the match away twice in the last five minutes when Danilo D’Ambrosio somehow was able to clear a cross against Samir Handanovic made a season defining save to deny Ucan from close range.

Inter finish a point above city rivals AC Milan in fourth, while Empoli make an immediate return to Serie B after Genoa’s 0-0 draw away at Fiorentina.

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