Mauro Icardi had little impact on his return to San Siro as Champions League-hopeful Atalanta held Inter to a 0-0 draw on Sunday.
Icardi missed almost two months of action before Wednesday's win over Genoa, with speculation over his future, a contract stand-off and conflicting fitness claims all playing a part in the saga, but his re-emergence at San Siro fell flat.
Inter edged an entertaining first half, though it was unable to make the breakthrough, with Icardi particularly culpable when wasting a one-on-one situation.
Atalanta improved in the second half and caused Inter issues, but like its host, it was unable to find a way through, meaning it failed to move above fourth-placed AC Milan, whom Inter moves five points clear of.
Matias Vecino looked particularly threatening during the exchanges, first having a goal disallowed for straying just offside, before forcing Pierluigi Gollini into an acrobatic save with a looping long-range half-volley.
Icardi then spurned a glorious chance in the 31st minute, as he tried to take on Gollini and made a mess of it, much to the crowd's annoyance.
READ| Inter's Curva Nord in no mood to forgive Icardi despite Genoa goal
Gollini again had to be alert just prior to the break, saving Matteo Politano's shot after the winger had a previous attempt crucially blocked by Jose Luis Palomino.
Inter had a lucky escape early in the second half – Josip Ilicic doing brilliantly to flash the ball across the face of goal, but Alejandro Gomez could only get the slightest of touches to it.
The host had one final chance to claim all three points, but Timothy Castagne headed clear just before Danilo D'Ambrosio could convert from Icardi's flick-on.
What does it mean? A missed opportunity for Atalanta
Although it was without top-scorer Duvan Zapata through suspension, Atalanta might feel it has spurned a great chance.
Inter is not in unbelievable form by any stretch of the imagination and it was hardly rampant on Sunday, yet Atalanta – usually free-scoring – appeared to play within itself for long periods.
Gollini a commanding presence
While Inter was not excellent, it had the chances to win. It ultimately failed because of Gollini, with the 24-year-old producing a string of fine saves.
Icardi's impact minimal
Perhaps the jeers from Inter's 'ultras' had a role, but Icardi was generally quiet and ineffective. His one big chance was completely wasted, as he looked rusty and lacking in belief.
Key Opta Facts
- Only Juventus (16) have kept more clean sheets than Inter (15) in the current Serie A campaign.
- Atalanta has drawn 0-0 in an away Serie A match for the first time since December 2016 – that also came at San Siro against AC Milan.
- Matteo Politano had four shots against Atalanta, more than any other player.
- Atalanta failed to have a single attempt on target for the first time in a Serie A match this season.
Inter travels to relegation-threatened Frosinone next Sunday, while Atalanta hosts Empoli a day later.