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Icardi brace sends Inter Milan top

Milan (AFP) – Argentina striker Mauro Icardi bagged another brace to send Inter Milan top of Serie A on Saturday with a 3-1 win at Cagliari.

In-form skipper Icardi opened Inter’s account after 29 minutes in Sardinia, before adding a second late on to bring his tally to 15 goals this season.

Inter’s Croatian midfielder Marcelo Brozovic came off the bench and immediately found the net on 55 minutes, with Leonardo Pavoletti reducing the deficit for Cagliari 19 minutes from time.

“We didn’t play great, but we brought the result home,” said Icardi. “The important thing is that the team wins with my goals.”

Luciano Spalletti’s side remain unbeaten 14 games into the season with 36 points, putting them one point ahead of Napoli who travel to Udinese on Sunday, and five ahead of champions Juventus who host Crotone.

“At first we suffered but this was the performance of a strong side,” Spalletti told Mediaset Premium.

“Icardi took a knock after thirty seconds, he was pained for a few minutes, we missed his contribution at that time, we lost a bit of distance.

“Cagliari were pressing us so hard it was violent. They were rushing at us at full force the second we got the ball.

“We had to modify a few things. In the second half, we went back to a four-man defence and played more of our football.”

Despite Icardi’s heroics, Inter could also thank goalkeeper Samir Handanovic for pulling off some key saves, noteably from Pavoletti.

After a charging start by Cagliari kept Handanovic busy in the first half-hour, Icardi latched onto an Ivan Perisic cross to open the scoring.

The 24-year-old almost got a second in the first half but was just off target from a Matias Vecino cross, with Davide Santon also firing wide.

Icardi’s second put him joint top of the Serie A scorers chart alongside Lazio’s Ciro Immobile.

But the Argentine refused to comment on reports that Real Madrid would be ready to activate the 110 million-euro ($131 million) release clause in his contract.

“I don’t talk about these things, it is too soon to talk about the market,” he insisted.

“Real? I’m not answering, there are people who work on these things, they do their job.”

Earlier, Sampdoria came crashing back to earth after their shock win over champions Juventus last weekend with a 3-0 defeat at ten-man Bologna.

Simone Verdi scored the opener after three minutes for Bologna at their Stadio Dall’Ara, with Ibrahima Mbaye nodding in Verdi’s corner for the second after 23 minutes.

Defender Vasilis Torosidis was sent off for a second yellow card in half-time stoppage time but Bologna held on, with Orji Okwonkwo getting a third in the 73rd minute.

Sampdoria are sixth just ahead of Bologna.

A Roberto Inglese second-half brace gave Chievo a 2-1 win at home against SPAL, with goalkeeper Stefano Sorrentino pulling off some key saves. SPAL scored thanks to a Bostjan Cesar own goal on 17 minutes.

Ten-man Verona ended their run of five consecutive defeats with a 2-0 win against relegation rivals Sassuolo.

Bruno Zuculini and Daniele Verde’s first-half goals, both from Alessio Cerci assists, sealed just a second win of the season for Verona.

French defender Thomas Heurtaux was sent off for a second yellow card but Verona held on to send Sassuolo within two points of the relegation zone.

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