Inter holds off late Cagliari run
Inter Milan beat Cagliari 2-1 on Saturday for just its third Serie A win of the season, with second-half goals from Thiago Motta and Coutinho.
The victory at the San Siro lifted the Nerazzurri three points clear of the relegation zone, with a game in hand.
Still, Inter is 10 points behind leaders Udinese and Lazio, with Lazio playing at Napoli later and Udinese visiting Parma on Sunday.
Also later, defending champion AC Milan was aiming for its sixth consecutive win at Fiorentina.
Having hit the crossbar twice in the first half, Inter took the lead in the 54th minute following a free kick from Ricardo Alvarez. Giampaolo Pazzini flicked the ball on to Thiago Motta, whose goal from the edge of the box was allowed despite appearing offside.
Coutinho was a last-minute starter after usual playmaker Wesley Sneijder reported a muscle problem during the warmup and the Brazilian took full advantage when he finished off a swift counterattack with a low shot from the edge of the area in the 60th.
Argentine forward Joaquin Larrivey then pulled one back for Cagliari in the 88th by redirecting a pass from the center of the area, as the Sardinian club showed resilience in its first match under new manager Davide Ballardini.
Cagliari goalkeeper Michael Agazzi deflected shots from Pazzini and Mauro Zarate off the crossbar in the 21st and 24th, and Inter midfielder Esteban Cambiasso sent a dangerous header high in the 43rd as the hosts dominated the first half.
''It was very important after the break to get these three points at home,'' said Thiago Motta, who was born in Brazil but competes for Italy's national team. ''We were able to have a decent match against a team that's not easy to play against. We've gone through some tough times and now we've got to continue like this.''
On Tuesday, Inter visits Trabzonspor in the Champions League, seeking revenge against the Turkish squad that handed the Nerazzurri a humiliating home defeat in its debut in the top European competition in September.