Inter coach Antonio Conte on Sunday hailed a game “played to perfection” as Lautaro Martinez scored a brace, with Romelu Lukaku also on target, in a 3-0 win over city rivals AC Milan to extend their lead at the top of Serie A.
Inter opened up a four-point lead over their second-placed opponents as Conte’s side target a first league title since their unprecedented treble under Jose Mourinho in 2009-2010.
“Credit to the lads, they put in an extraordinary performance, carried out to perfection,” said Conte, who is bidding to end his former club Juventus’ quest for a 10th consecutive title.
In third, AS Roma were held to a goalless draw at 15th-placed Benevento, giving Juventus, who were 11 points off top spot, the chance to move third against rock-bottom Crotone yesterday.
Roma are five points adrift of Milan with both teams going head-to-head in Rome at the weekend.
Behind, in a match for fourth place, SSC Napoli crashed 4-2 at Atalanta BC, with Nigerian forward Victor Osimhen stretched off and hospitalized overnight after losing consciousness following a knock to his head.
At the San Siro, Lukaku was on top form, the Belgian playing a role in Martinez’s two goals on five and 57 minutes, before scoring his 17th goal in the league this season to move top of the Serie A goalscorers.
Milan, chasing a first scudetto since 2010-2011, fell to back-to-back Serie A losses for the first time this season.
“We’ve suffered a lot this year,” Martinez said. “Two eliminations in the Coppa Italia and the [UEFA] Champions League, this is the only goal we have left and we’re fighting for that.”
The match was played behind closed doors because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but that did not stop thousands of fans gathering outside the stadium.
It was the third derby of the season, with Milan winning the first 2-1 in the league and Inter the Coppa Italia quarter-final by the same scoreline, a game overshadowed by Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Lukaku squaring off and trading insults.
Despite the restrictions, supporters waited for the team buses to arrive, waving flags, singing and setting off smoke bombs.
“The welcome the fans gave us at the stadium gave us goosebumps,” Conte said.
The former Chelsea manager warned against complacency against their next opponents, 11th-placed Genoa and lowly Parma, who earlier drew 2-2 with Udinese.
“Psychologically, I dread these two games, that’s where we’ll have to show that we have passed a milestone,” he said. “These two games will say a lot about what we can do.”
Inter were fresher with Milan coming off a 2-2 UEFA Europa League draw at Red Star Belgrade on Thursday last week.
Lukaku powered down the right flank in the opening minutes and Milan defender Simon Kjaer blocked his initial cross, but the ball returned to the Belgian for a perfect delivery for Martinez to nod home.
Ibrahimovic threatened with a back-heel flick after quarter of an hour following a scramble in the penalty area, but Samir Handanovic kept it out, the Inter goalkeeper also pulling off a double save from the Swede after halftime.
Then Martinez broke through again, finishing off an Ivan Perisic pull-back in a move started by Lukaku and Achraf Hakimi.
Milan goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma denied Lukaku minutes later, but the former Manchester United striker then burst through to score the third.
“A striker depends on the team’s performance,” Milan coach Stefano Pioli said of Ibrahimovic, who limped off with calf cramps with 15 minutes to go. “It was a tough week, the worst one of the season.”
In Bergamo, Atalanta moved fourth at the expense of Napoli in a game where all six goals came in the second half.
Colombian pair Luis Muriel and Duvan Zapata both scored for the hosts. Robin Gosens scored for the hosts and also an own-goal for Napoli, while Cristian Romero nodded in the fourth.
The match finished in confusion after Osimhen hit his head on the ground after a Romero challenge in stoppage-time.
The 22-year-old was hospitalized overnight under observation for head trauma, Napoli said.
Napoli are seventh, three points behind Atalanta, who occupy the final Champions League place.
Roma failed to take advantage against 10-man Benevento, who played half an hour a man down after Kamil Glik’s sending off.
The capital side were also denied a late penalty, which was awarded and then overruled after a video assistant referee review.
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