Inter Win Big Game Against Fellow Title Challengers Napoli

Inter and Napoli were the headline game during the midweek fixtures, and the Milan side emerged victorious thanks to a penalty strike from in form striker Romelu Lukaku.

Both sides came into the clash off the back of weekend wins, as the title race begins to shape up over the festive period. Gennaro Gattuso brought back David Ospina in goal, Tiémoué Bakayoko in midfield and the streaking Hirving Lozano for Alex Meret, Fabian Ruiz and Matteo Politano. Lozano returned to the right to complete the attacking trio alongside Dries Mertens and captain Lorenzo Insigne who have been so dangerous this year.

Inter, on the other hand, recalled dangerman Lautaro Martinez for Alexis Sanchez and Ashley Young for Croatian Ivan Perišić as left wing-back.

Napoli suffered a major blow in the first half when talismanic striker Dries Mertens picked up a serious injury turning to cross a ball and had to be helped down the tunnel in obvious agony. His replacement was Andrea Petagna who netted the winner against Sampdoria at the weekend.

Petagna’s strength and physicality was providing a useful outlet for the side from Naples, holding the ball up as Lozano and Insigne buzzed around him as they threatened to break the rigid Inter defense but to no avail.

Inter worked Ospina in their only real opening, the goalkeeper saving comfortably from a looped Roberto Gagliardini header, the cross coming from the Nerazzurri best player Nicolò Barella.

The referee brought a very niggly first half to an end with neither side finding the breakthrough.

Marcelo Brozović was rightly yellow carded in the second half after a succession of fouls that reflected the opening hour, with no team really finding a rhythm.

Hirving Lozano missed a glorious chance just after the hour mark. A cross across the box from Insigne found the Mexican who could have headed it, but decided to try and control the ball on his chest and on the stretch lifted the ball over goalkeeper Samir Handanović and the frame of the goal.

Handanović pulled off a very fine save from Insigne’s impudent back heeled flick, the Slovenian flinging himself to his right in a flash to palm the ball to safety.

Shortly after Inter were rewarded with a penalty. A deflected Stefano Sensi fell into the path of Matteo Darmian who reached the ball ahead of the onrushing Ospina who clashed with the outstretched foot of the defender sending him sprawling. Romelu Lukaku, who had been quiet up to this point, drilled the penalty into the bottom right, Ospina diving early to his left making the Belgians task all the easier.

In the midst of all this, captain Lorenzo Insigne was sent off for appearing to argue with the referee who took exception to his protests.

Down to ten, Napoli regrouped and attacked again down the right through Lozano who pulled it back for sub Politano. Politano caught the ball sweetly but down the middle and once again the Slovenian goalkeeper reacted well to turn the ball aside with a strong left hand.

Inter were content to sit in and defend and protect their precious lead but were nearly made to pay in the dying minutes as a deflected give and go put fullback Giovanni Di Lorenzo in on goal. Napoli’s defender rushed his left footed attempt allowing Handanović to save again, this time with his feet.

One more chance fell to Napoli and striker Petagna. A low cross was collected with his back to goal and swiveling onto his left struck a fierce close range shot, which crashed against the outside of the post and behind for a goal kick.

With that miss, the day was Inter’s as the Nerazzurri gained some precious three points in their quest for the Serie A title. They will host Spezia on the weekend to continue their chase to top-placed Milan. Napoli will be left to rue their missed chances but have little time to dwell on this defeat with a tricky away trip to Lazio up next.    



December 16, 2020 – Serie A 2020-21 Round 12

SCORERS: 28′ Lukaku pen.

INTER (3-5-2): Handanovic; Skriniar, De Vrij, Bastoni; Darmian, Barella, Brozovic (67′ Sensi), Gagliardini, Young (86′ D’Ambrosio); Lukaku, Lautaro Martinez (77′ Hakimi) (Radu, Padelli, Ranocchia, Kolarov, Eriksen, Wieser, Perisic, Satriano) Coach: Conte
NAPOLI (4-3-3): Ospina; Di Lorenzo, Manolas, Koulibaly, Mario Rui (84′ Ghoulam); Bakayoko (74′ Fabian Ruiz), Demme (84′ Elmas), Zielinski (74′ Politano); Lozano, Mertens (61′ Petagna), Insigne (Meret, Contini, Malcuit, Maksimovic, Hysaj, Rrahmani, Lobotka) Coach: Gattuso

REFEREE: Mr. Massa from Imperia
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Brozovic, Lukaku, Skriniar, D’Ambrosio, Handanovic (I), Bakayoko, Ospina, Lozano (N); Red Card: Insigne (N); Extra Time: 1st Half 2′, 2nd Half 4′