VAR came to Inter's rescue as Mauro Icardi's penalty ensured Luciano Spalletti's side bounced back from their Champions League exit with a 1-0 win over Serie A strugglers Udinese.
Spalletti was in bullish mood ahead of Saturday's clash, insisting that his side would not suffer the same mid-season crisis that beset them last term.
But his side failed to live up to expectations at San Siro, with a poor miss from Icardi seemingly summing up a dismal performance.
Icardi turned from zero to hero with 14 minutes remaining, however, as he lifted a delicate finish home from 12 yards after VAR was used to deem that Seko Fofana had handled in the area.
Joao Mario had Inter's first sight of goal, dragging wide from the edge of Udinese's area, before Icardi headed across the face of goal in the 22nd minute.
Icardi should have done better from Sime Vrsaljko's pinpoint cross as Inter toiled for an opener, but Udinese goalkeeper Juan Musso remained untested until he reacted sharply to tip Keita Balde Diao's crisp strike over.
Inter's profligacy nearly proved costly after the interval, Rolando Mandragora drilling over from Fofana's cut-back, with Hidde ter Avest firing wide moments later, though Inter should have been ahead in the 66th minute. Keita's cross was perfect but, with the goal gaping, Icardi failed to keep his header on target.
Fofana's error gave Icardi the chance to make amends, though, and the forward made no mistake with a perfectly executed Panenka to get Inter back on track. Icardi was flagged for offside as he found the net again with a late header, but Udinese never threatened to punish Inter with an equaliser.
What does it mean? Inter back to winning ways
Inter's Champions League campaign may be over for this season, but their hopes of appearing in it again next campaign were boosted as this win strengthened their grip on third place. They are six points ahead of city rivals AC Milan and seven ahead of fifth-placed Lazio, who face Bologna and Atalanta on Monday and Tuesday respectively. Udinese, meanwhile, remain just two points above the relegation zone.
Icardi to the rescue
Inter's striker has so often acted as their talisman, but Icardi was far from at his best, and his display looked set to be encapsulated by a dreadful miss midway through the second half. However, the Argentine made up for his mistake from the spot to secure the points.
Fofana's flap proves costly
Udinese would certainly have been worthy of a point, but Fofana's rash decision handed Inter a lifeline, and even though the referee missed it initially, VAR was used to punish the visitors.
Key Opta Facts
- Inter have won seven of their last eight games in Serie A against Udinese (L1), as many as they managed in the previous 17 encounters.
- No player has scored more penalties than Mauro Icardi in the Serie A in 2018 (five).
- Udinese haven't attempted a single shot during the first half in a Serie A match for their first time since December 2008 against Atalanta.
- Udinese have conceded all their last 11 goals inside the box (including three penalties).
Lowly Chievo are Inter's next opponents in Serie A, while Udinese host fellow strugglers Frosinone.
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