Napoli 1-3 Inter Milan
Inter Milan are back on top of Serie A after a first-half double from Romelu Lukaku saw off a determined Napoli challenge.
Napoli coach Gennaro Gattuso has instilled a fighting spirit in Gli Azzuri, and they battled back after Lukaku had put the visitors in charge. But a goal from Lautaro Martinez finished the contest as Antonio Conte’s side returned to pole position.
Who else but the great Cristiano Ronaldo dominated the Serie A 2020 news in the run-up to this game with yet another hat-trick, this time in a 4-0 win over Cagliari, to put Juventus back on top of the league?
That also took Ronaldo past Lukaku in the Serie A top scorers list, until the Belgian striker scored the opener on 14 minutes.
It’s neck and neck at the top, with Inter ahead of Juve on goal difference and neither team looking like faltering any time soon.
Highlights of the game
Lukaku’s 13th league goal of the season came after a flurry of early chances for either side. Napoli top scorer Arek Milik headed the first opportunity of the match wide before goalkeeper Alex Meret made a great save going to his bottom-right corner to deny Lukaku.
Inter’s Lautaro Martinez fired his effort high and wide before Napoli broke away and Lorenzo Insigne failed to test Inter keeper Samir Handanovic. Lukaku nodded down for Martinez but his shot was charged down
The frantic opening came to a climax when Lukaku finished off a fast break with a clinical finish into the bottom-left corner for the opener.
Attacking midfielder Roberto Gagliardini fired a shot towards the bottom-left corner which Meret saved well, but there was nothing the Napoli keeper could do on 33 minutes when Marcelo Brozovic passed to Lukaku, who hammered home his and Inter’s second of the night.
Gli Azzuri fought back and Insigne was unlucky with a long-range effort which Handanovic brilliantly saved, and Fabian Ruiz had a shot blocked.
The hosts halved the deficit approaching half-time when Jose Callejon found Milik in space and the Polish striker notched his seventh of the season firing high into the net.
Napoli started the second half on the front foot and Insigne fired a cross-shot narrowly wide. But they couldn’t turn possession into clear-cut chances and paid the price on the hour mark when Inter restored their two-goal lead.
Lukaku’s strike partner Martinez has attracted plenty of attention around Europe’s top clubs, and he scored his ninth of the season with a typical poacher’s goal from close range to make it 3-1.
Gli Azzuri responded again and both Piotr Zielinski and Callejon had shots saved, while at the other end, Martinez had a scent of blood but his close-range effort was blocked by the Napoli defence.
Then, the hosts came within an inch of scoring. Milan Skriniar fouled Zielinski within shooting distance, and Insigne clattered the crossbar with his free-kick.
With 15 minutes remaining, that would have made it one heck of a finish. But it wasn’t to be, and if anything Inter looked the more likely to add to their lead.
Lukaku was denied his hat-trick when his shot was blocked and Skriniar had a good low shot saved well by Meret as I Nerazzurri fans began their celebration.
Inter have had more firepower than Napoli this season and the first-half statistics were a perfect illustration of that. It was a well-fought half with plenty of goalmouth action. Napoli won the shot count by ten to nine, but I Nerazzurri had six on target compared with three for their hosts.
By the final, whistle the shots on target margin narrowed to seven for Napoli and eight for Inter but I Nerazzurri were more clinical.
But Inter keep on fighting and next up, Antonio Conte’s side is at home to Atalanta. Gian Piero Gasperini’s team just spanked Parma 5-0 to go fifth in the table, with Slovenian midfielder Josip Ilicic scoring a brace.
Napoli are away to Lazio when they face the league’s hottest striker Ciro Immobile, who bagged another brace in a 1-2 win away to Brescia to take his tally to 19 for the season.
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