Rampant Inter charge 12 points clear, Napoli hit Sassuolo for six

Atalanta’s Dutch defender #33 Hans Hateboer (L) fights for the ball with Inter Milan’s Italian defender #32 Federico Dimarco during the Italian Serie A football match between Inter Milan and Atalanta in Milan, on February 28, 2024. AFP

Inter Milan continued their march towards the Serie A title with Wednesday’s 4-0 thumping of Atalanta which extended their league lead to 12 points, while Victor Osimhen and Khvicha Kvaratskhelia netted five of Napoli’s six goals at Sassuolo.

A convincing victory in their game in hand at the San Siro took Inter’s all-competitions winning streak to 11 matches and left closest rivals Juventus trailing in the distance.

Simone Inzaghi’s side were missing key players Francesco Acerbi, Hakan Calhanoglu and Marcus Thuram but it made little difference against one of the division’s form teams.

“We feel good. It’s all part of a process which begun a few years ago now,” said defender Alessandro Bastoni to DAZN.

“We have a group of players who have been together a good few years, and we’re maturing.”

Matteo Darmian got the ball rolling in the 26th minute with his first club goal of the season before Lautaro Martinez scored his 26th on the stroke of half-time with a sensational spin and left-footed hit.

Martinez was denied a brace when Marco Carnesecchi saved his penalty nine minutes after the break, but Federico Dimarco was on hand to ram home the rebound.

However things might not have gone all their way had Charles De Ketelaere’s early opener for Atalanta not been chalked off for a Aleksei Miranchuk handball following a long VAR check.

Atalanta boss Gian Piero Gasperini was visibly irritated by that decision and the awarding — for another handball by Hans Hateboer — of the spot-kick which led to Dimarco ending the match as a contest.

Heavy defeat ensured that Gasperini’s team stay fifth, two points behind Bologna who have the advantage in the race for the Champions League.

But Inter dominated from the moment De Ketelaere’s goal was disallowed and substitute Davide Frattesi completed the rout in the 71st minute with a header from Alexis Sanchez’s free-kick, as Inter put four past their opponents for the fourth straight league match.

“We’ve won little as it stands, let’s hope that they come,” said Inzaghi.

“We got one with the Super Cup in January but for now we have to keep going and think about Monday when we have Genoa.”

Napoli’s dynamic duo

Clinical Osimhen scored a hat-trick before Kvaratskhelia bagged a brace of his own as Napoli come from behind to win their game in hand 6-1 and reignite hopes of European football.

After Amir Rrahmani levelled just before the half-hour mark, Osimhen rattled in his treble across 16 minutes either side of half-time to take his goal tally since returning from the Africa Cup of Nations to five in three matches in all competitions.

And Kvaratskhelia, who rolled Osimhen in for his simple third, belted in two fabulous strikes in the 51st and 75th minutes against a dreadful Sassuolo.

“We already knew that Osimhen was a great player, we missed him a lot. When you’ve got Osi in this kind of form everything is easier,” said Matteo Politano, who set up two of Osimhen’s goals, to DAZN.

Napoli are still ninth but four points behind Roma, who sit sixth and in the Europa Conference League spot, after just their third league win of 2024.

Francesco Calzona’s team are 29 points behind Inter, a sign of just how bad their league title defence has been.

And while Roma are in sight, eight points separate them from Bologna with a huge home fixture with fierce rivals Juventus coming at the weekend.

“We really needed the win and we showed today that we’re a good team,” added Politano.

“We’ve given away a lot of points but if this is how we’re going to approach games then there’s still time for us to catch up.”

Sassuolo, playing for the first time under Emiliano Bigica following Alessio Dionisi’s sacking on Sunday, drop down into the relegation zone following a sixth defeat in seven matches.

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