The game effectively ended when Gabriel floored Mauro Icardi in the 67th minute, the young Argentine stepping up to the penalty spot to make it 4-1.
And to think that the Sardinians had begun well, only to gradually peter out after the opening 20 minutes. Unspectacular and hurried in possession, Inter suddenly benefited from a superb Ever Banega pass, the former Sevilla star picking out Ivan Perisic to bang in the opener. Barely had the scorers sat down that they were up again, this time to clap as Banega curled in a beauty to make it two.
Perhaps overconfident, Inter allowed Marco Borriello and Davide Di Gennaro to immediately bring the danger back to the other end, the former scoring his 12th of the season to bring the Sardinians back into the game.
Roberto Gagliardini has finally opened his account, and dominated the midfield in the second half as the Islanders gave in to the long ball strategy more and more. It was good to see the Nerazzurri control a whole half without reason to worry.
The football wasn't particularly brilliant, and Inter still give the ball away very cheaply, with Geoffrey Kondogbia and Antonio Candreva particularly guilty.
Manager rating out of 10
7 -- Inter may not be spectacular, but they know how to handle the plentiful average teams this league provides. Coach Stefano Pioli gets credit for reverting to the Nerazzurri's best lineup, for moving Banega back to a more influential role and for sticking with Geoffrey Kondogbia. His decision to start Gary Medel over Jeison Murillo isn't yielding a clearly superior performance.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Samir Handanovic, 8 -- Got in Pedro's way and lunged at Di Gennaro's free kick. These saves are worth their weight in points. Not guilty on Cagliari's score.
DF Danilo D'Ambrosio, 5 -- Sent Icardi through with a brilliant pass and had a snorter rebuffed by Gabriel, but let Borriello outjump him for Cagliari's goal and was immediately pipped to the ball on their next set piece.
DF Gary Medel, 5 -- His overhead kick is typical: much like D'Ambrosio, the Chilean looks good in the highlights, but was the cause of Pedro's chance in the first place by failing to step up and force the Brazilian to avoid the offside trap. Made a similar error on Victor Ibarbo. Keeps the line deeper, too.
DF Miranda, 6 -- Wasn't spectacular, but generally kept Borriello quiet and forced him to stray to look for a touch. Says a lot that he's often the only defender not to draw criticism.
DF Cristian Ansaldi, 6 -- Can't really say he had a barnstormer. Linked well enough with Perisic, but that was about it.
MF Roberto Gagliardini, 6 -- Struggled with Cagliari's press in the first half, but got a very deserved goal at the end. Looked better as the game went on, but Pioli shouldn't have asked him to stay put in the middle, though he did make five tackles and boasted a good read of the game.
MF Geoffrey Kondogbia, 6 -- A force to be reckoned with in midfield, where he made three key interceptions and was always throwing his weight around. Got off a surprising amount of shots.
MF Antonio Candreva, 5 -- Is turning into the frustrating player we saw at Lazio, the one who tended to pepper the box with inaccurate crosses and tried his luck from far out when he could. When exactly do those hair-brainers work out?
MF Ever Banega , 8 -- An apathetic first half was suddenly turned on its head by a beautiful pass into Perisic for the opener. Dropping a tad deeper, the Argentine turned everything he touched into gold. Nobody on this team (save for perhaps Gagliardini) has the former Sevilla man's eye for the pass. The free kick was sublime.
MF Ivan Perisic, 8 -- Blew Cagliari's defence to smithereens with two wonderful strikes. A tireless runner in both attack and defence, the Croatian made Mauricio Isla look like an amateur.
FW Mauro Icardi, 7 -- Took his penalty well and was always ready to help out, whether it was assisting or running deep on to the midfield's long balls, an obvious attempt at exploiting Bruno Alves' 35 years.
FW Eder, 7 -- Came on and actually did very well, nearly scoring a goal and looking like his old self.
MF Joao Mario, N/R -- Inter didn't quite look the same with the former Sporting man on the pitch, but they hardly needed to.