Inter’s Keita Balde picked up the silliest red card of the season v Empoli

FC Internazionale v Empoli FC - Serie A

The race for the top four went right to the final day in Italy’s Serie A.

Atalanta, Inter and AC Milan were all competing for third and fourth spot. One would miss out.

All three teams won their respective matches and so it was Milan who finished fifth and will compete in next season’s Europa League, rather than the more prestigious Champions League.

Atalanta finished third after recording a 3-1 win over Sassuolo, Inter clinched fourth spot with a 2-1 win over Empoli, while Milan beat SPAL 3-2 away from home.

It was a nervy final few minutes at the San Siro for Inter, who took the lead twice in the second half through Keita Balde and Radja Nainggolan.

And when Luciano Spalletti desperately needed his players to keep their heads, Balde almost cost his team dearly by picking up what must be the silliest red card of the season.

After coming on as a half-time substitute, the Senegalese forward received his first yellow card from referee Luca Banti for taking off his shirt after scoring.

He almost made it to full-time without being sent off but, in the seventh minute of injury time, was booked again after bringing down Empoli goalkeeper Bartlomiej Dragowski during an Inter counter-attack.

Inter had the ball in the net thanks to Marcelo Brozovic’s shot from near the halfway line, but the goal was disallowed because of Balde’s pointless foul.

What was he thinking?

If he’d left Dragowski alone, Inter would have wrapped up a 3-1 win and not been forced to endure another tense couple of minutes trying to preserve their one-goal advantage.

Fortunately for Balde, Inter still secured qualification for next season’s Champions League after Empoli failed to equalise.

He was the most relieved man inside the stadium when Banti blew his whistle for full-time.

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