Inter leapfrogs Lazio to take final Champions League spot

(AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)

By DANIELLA MATAR


Associated Press

MILAN (AP) Inter Milan is back in the Champions League.

The Nerazzurri trailed 2-1 with 13 minutes from time but fought back to beat 10-man Lazio 3-2 and secure a spot in Europe's premier club competition for the first time since 2012, following Matias Vecino's late header.

Inter moved fourth with the same number of points as Lazio but with a better head-to-head record. Champion Juventus, Napoli and Roma are the other Italian teams to qualify for the Champions League.

This was the first year Italy had four spots in the Champions League and the final berth came down to the last match of the season, with Lazio leading Inter by three points.

It was a thrilling match at a sold-out Stadio Olimpico.

Lazio took the lead when Adam Marusic's strike smacked Ivan Perisic in the face and ricocheted into the far bottom corner.

The hosts almost doubled their lead but Sergej Milinkovic-Savic's free kick came off the post, and Inter leveled in the 29th.

A corner came through to Danilo D'Ambrosio and, although Thomas Strakosha saved his initial attempt, he managed to hook his leg around the goalkeeper to turn it over the line.

Lazio restored its lead four minutes from the break as Senad Lulic threaded a ball through for Felipe Anderson to race forward and fire into the bottom left corner.

Inter was awarded a penalty in the 72nd for a handball by Milinkovic-Savic but the referee changed his mind after seeing the incident again on video review.

The visitors did get a penalty shortly after when Stefan de Vrij, who is set to join Inter next month, fouled Mauro Icardi.

Icardi converted to take his tally to 29 for the season, level with Lazio forward Ciro Immobile at the top of the goalscoring charts.

Lulic was sent off following a second yellow card and the turnaround was complete when Vecino headed in a corner nine minutes from time.

NO ESCAPE

There was no great escape for Crotone this year as it lost 2-1 at Napoli on Sunday in the final round of the Serie A season to drop to Serie B.

Crotone avoided relegation last year on the final day with victory at Lazio after picking up 20 out of 27 points.

Crotone was in 18th place going into the final round this season but knew that a result at Napoli would give it the chance to escape relegation again.

However, Napoli dominated from the start and goals from Arkadiusz Milik and Jose Callejon gave it a comfortable halftime lead. Marco Tumminello scored a late consolation for Crotone.

Napoli, which finished second to Juventus, became the first Serie A side to reach 90 points and still not win the title. Its total of 91 was also a club points record.

In the end, Crotone's result did not matter as other relegation-threatened clubs all won.

Spal, which was level on points with Crotone, beat 10-man Sampdoria 3-1 and Cagliari earned a 1-0 win over Atalanta, which missed a late penalty.

Chievo Verona beat already relegated Benevento 1-0 and Udinese beat Bologna 1-0.

EUROPA LEAGUE

AC Milan was already assured of a spot in the Europa League but avoided having to play a qualifying round after crushing Fiorentina 5-1.

Milan needed to at least match Atalanta's result but Giovanni Simeone fired Fiorentina ahead in the 20th minute.

Hakan Calhanoglu leveled with a free kick three minutes later and Patrick Cutrone completed the turnaround shortly before halftime.

Cutrone scored again after the break, between goals from Nikola Kalinic and Giacomo Bonaventura.

Elsewhere, Roma won 1-0 at Sassuolo and Torino beat Genoa 2-1.

Updated May 20, 2018