In-form Lautaro Martinez starred as Inter Milan beat Fiorentina 4-3 in a drama-packed seven-goal thriller in Florence on Saturday night.
Inter took the lead inside 90 seconds when Barella ran onto a defence-splitting pass from Martinez and tucked away a scrappy finish with the outside of his boot.
Less than 15 minutes later Martinez got on the scoresheet himself, slotting home neatly after an impressive mazey run through the Fiorentina defence.
As Inter threatened to run away with the game, Fiorentina clawed a goal back on the half-hour mark from the penalty spot through Arthur Cabral.
Giacomo Bonaventura was caught by Federico Dimarco with a nasty mid-air stamp as the Fiorentina midfielder lined up a shot, and the host’s were awarded the penalty after a quick VAR review.
Martinez threatened with a near-post header from a corner early into the second half to force a strong save out of Pietro Terracciano, before Dimarco produced a teasing across the six-yard box, but the danger area was vacant of yellow Inter shirts.
Fiorentina saw a huge chance go begging as a fizzed Christian Kouame cross evaded all of Jonathan Ikone, Cabral and Bonaventura who were queuing up in the box, but eventually found the equaliser through Ikone with a sensational curled effort on the hour mark.
He drove into the penalty area before he cut inside on his left foot, and curled the ball with a lofted effort above Andre Onana into the top left corner.
However, the man in form – Martinez – wasn’t finished, as he restored Inter’s lead with a thumping effort from the penalty spot a little over 15 minutes from time.
Fiorentina’s spirit wasn’t dampened and continued to push for an equaliser as their persistence finally paid off with minutes to spare, as substitute Luka Jovic fired in a last-minute equaliser from close-range.
Unfortunately for the host’s, the action wasn’t finished there, as Henrikh Mkhitaryan rode his luck deep into added time to get in the way of a Nikola Milenkovic clearance inside the Fiorentina box, and divert the ball into the bottom corner to steal all three points.
TALKING POINT – INTER’S EUROPEAN CHASE IS ON AFTER LATE DRAMA
They rode their luck in parts and were sloppy in others, but Inter showed how devastating they can be with their main man Martinez in such exhilarating form. It looked as though the game was going to be put to bed inside the first 20 minutes, but as much as Inter let it slip out of their hands, Fiorentina were just as determined to claw themselves back into the game.
Inter just about got themselves over the line in a game they really needed to win, and now the table looks far more positive when considering their chances of Champions League qualification. They were four points off of Roma in fourth before this evening, but the deficit has been reduced to a single point after a scrappy, but determined victory on the road.
PLAYER OF THE MATCH – LAUTARO MARTINEZ (INTER MILAN)
Martinez enjoyed a blistering start as he became the first Inter striker to both score and assist in the opening 15 minutes of a Serie A match since 2011 to hand the visitor’s a dream start.
He grabbed his assist a minute and a half into the game with a decisive through ball to Barella, before stamping his authority on the scoreline with a breathtaking goal of his own. He danced in and out of the Fiorentina defence, who couldn’t stop him, before slipping an effort into the bottom corner.
Even his penalty – which he won himself – was taken by a player full of confidence as he smashed the ball into the top corner to give Inter, what they thought at the time, would be the winning goal.
FIORENTINA: Terracciano 6, Dodo 6, Milenkovic 6, Quarta 6, Biraghi 6, Bonaventura 7, Amrabat 6, Duncan 6, Gonzalez N/A, Cabral 7, Kouame 7
Subs: Ikone 7, Jovic 7, Terzic N/A, Venuti N/A, Barak N/A.
MILAN: Onana 5, Acerbi 6, de Vrij 6, Skriniar 7, Darmian 7, Barella 8, Calhanoglu 7, Mkhitaryan 7, Dimarco 7, Martinez 9, Correa 6
Subs: Dzeko 6, Gosens 6, Dumfries 6, Bellanova N/A
2’ – GOAL! FIORENTINA 0-1 INTER MILAN (BARELLA) – Lautaro Martinez produces a defence-splitting ball to Barella who anticipates the pass and makes a great run, before tucking the ball away.
15’ – GOAL! FIORENTINA 0-2 INTER MILAN (MARTINEZ) – Milan double their lead! Martinez produces a clinical finish after dancing through the Fiorentina defence before slotting an effort beyond Terracciano.
32’ – FIORENTINA PENALTY! Dimarco catches Bonaventura in the box with an ugly stamp as the latter guides a shot wide.
33’ – GOAL! FIORENTINA 1-2 INTER MILAN (CABRAL) – Cabral neatly tucks the penalty away, and it’s game on!
60’ – GOAL! FIORENTINA 2-2 INTER MILAN (IKONE) – It’s a superb finish from the substitute! He tried it once in the first half, but this time he hits the sweet spot and executes it perfectly. He drives into the penalty area and cuts inside on his left foot, curling the ball with a lofted effort above Onana and into the top left corner.
73’ – GOAL! FIORENTINA 2-3 INTER MILAN (MARTINEZ) – Martinez restores Inter’s lead from the spot! He smashes an effort from 12 yards into the top corner for his sixth goal of the season.
90’ – GOAL! FIORENTINA 3-3 INTER MILAN (JOVIC) – It’s sloppy from Inter to concede the corner, but Fiorentina won’t care! Jovic is in the right place at the right time and smashes home a close-range effort!
90’+5 – GOAL!!! FIORENTINA 3-4 INTER MILAN (MKHITARYAN) – There is more drama!! Inter have stolen it in the 95th minute! Barella squares the ball across an almost empty Fiorentina box, and as Milenkovic tries to clear it, hits it straight at the only other forward in the box as it ricochet’s off of Mkhitaryan and beyond Terracciano.