Inter sweep past Monza to go five points clear

Inter sweep past Monza to go five points clear

January 13, 2024 at 9:56 PM
Lautaro Martinez has scored 20 times in all competitions for Inter Milan this season
Lautaro Martinez has scored 20 times in all competitions for Inter Milan this season. Photo: Piero CRUCIATTI / AFP
Source: AFP

Inter Milan moved five points clear at the top of Serie A on Saturday after cruising to a 5-1 win at Monza, while last-gasp drama gave Napoli a 2-1 win over Salernitana.

Doubles from Hakan Calhanoglu and Lautaro Martinez and a late strike from Marcus Thuram extended Inter's advantage on Juventus, who host Sassuolo on Tuesday night.

Inter now head to the revamped, four-team Italian Super Cup in Riyadh, where they begin a tough run of fixtures against Lazio on Thursday.

A trip to high-flying Fiorentina will follow at the end of the month before a showdown with Juve at the San Siro, by which time their closest rivals could be top of the pile due to having a game in hand.

Inter don't play what would have been next weekend's home clash with Atalanta until the end of February due to their Super Cup commitments.

However if they continue to play as they did in a blistering display on Saturday they should have little to fear from any opposition.

Calhanoglu put Inter ahead from the penalty spot in the 12th minute after Roberto Gagliardini handled Martinez's header, and the away side were two in front moments later.

A great team move swept Inter from one end of the pitch to the other and ended with Martinez prodding home from close range.

Monza's Matteo Pessina then had a header ruled out for the tightest of offsides in the 29th minute, and Calhanoglu made sure of the points on the hour mark when he stroked home Thuram's neat lay-off.

Pessina did get his goal from the spot nine minutes later but by then the damage was done.

With six minutes remaining Martinez scored from the spot to take his league tally to 18 for the season and four minutes later Thuram capped a perfect evening with a fine individual strike.

Napoli relief

Amir Rrahmani's stoppage-time strike earned Napoli a dramatic win over regional rivals Salernitana which ended the ailing champions' winless run at four matches.

Kosovo captain Rrahmani capitalised on dreadful defending at a free-kick to poke home the winner and turn jeers into cheers at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona.

Walter Mazzarri's side moved up to sixth in Italy's top flight after the win, 20 points behind Inter.

The hosts came back from going behind in the 29th minute to a stunning Antonio Candreva strike, with Matteo Politano pulling Napoli level from the penalty spot at the end of the first half before Rrahmani brought the house down with his late winner.

"It's not an easy situation, because going from being Italian champions to having the kind of results we're having this season is very hard," said Rrahmani to DAZN.

"I'm happy with the goal. I hope I can be as lucky again in the future."

Napoli are two points behind fourth-placed Fiorentina, who sit in the final Champions League spot and host Udinese on Sunday.

"It was a real team win, a hallmark of this team last season but something that we haven't seen too much of this year," said Mazzarri.

Saturday's win brought euphoria to home fans who have watched a side which cruised to last season's historic Scudetto put up a weak title defence.

But the three points came with a large slice of good fortune as Politano's leveller came after a soft foul from Federico Fazio on Giovanni Simeone, given after a VAR check.

Supporters were resigned to a draw when Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, who has struggled this term, shot a great chance straight at Salernitana goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa with the clock ticking down.

Moments later Ochoa helped hand Napoli the win when he clattered into Fazio while trying to collect Giacomo Raspadori's free-kick, the ball then squirmed to Rrahmani who rammed home the decisive goal.

AFP photo