Inter Milan ran out comfortable 3-1 winners over Roma in a match which could have a big bearing on the top positions in Serie A.
After an uneventful first half-hour, Inter took the lead when Hakan Calhanoglu slid a ball through bisecting the Roma high line, picking out Denzel Dumfries’ diagonal run and the Dutch wing-back then slotted past Rui Patricio.
Ten minutes later the lead was doubled when Marcelo Brozovic turned inside Gianluca Mancini and hit an unerring effort inside the top right hand upright.
The game was over as a contest seven minutes into the second half when Lautaro Martinez headed home Calhanoglu’s corner.
Roma got scant consolation five minutes from time when Henrikh Mkhitaryan smashed home substitute Eldor Shomurodov’s smart cut back from the by-line.
The win lifts Inter a point above city rivals AC Milan at the top of the table, with the same amount of games played, and with only bottom-half sides in opposition in their final five games it is difficult to see them not winning another Scudetto.
Rona’s hopes of catching Juventus, who are five points clear in fourth place, look forlorn after this reverse.
Both sides came into the game in fine form but it was Inter who showed themselves to be a class above after a tepid first half an hour. With Lautaro Martinez backing up his midweek brace in the Coppa Italia semi-final, Inter now have their best forward in form ahead of the last five games of the season.
In fact, every line of the Inter side looks in fine shape and with the title in their hands it is difficult to see them dropping points in the last five games against over-matched teams. Roma on the other hand, after performing so well to give themselves a chance of Champions League football, are effectively a win from Juventus at Sassuolo away from being out of the race for a top-four spot.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Hakan Calhanoglu (Inter): When no player from either side seemed willing or capable to threaten the other side in the opening stages it was the Turkish midfielder who drove his side forward, forcing the first save of the match from Rui Patricio. Twelve minutes later his perfect through ball set up the first goal and he also found Martinez for the third goal. The Inter midfield three is the solid foundation of the team, but it is the Turkish star who ensures they are a dangerous attacking force.
Inter: Handanovic 6; Skriniar 7, De Vrij 7, Dimarco 8; Dumfries 8, Brozovic 7, Barella 7, Calhanoglu 9*, Perisic 7; Dzeko 6, Martinez 7.
Subs: Correa 6, Bastoni 6, Gagliardini 6, Gosens 6, Sanchez 5.
Roma: Rui Patricio 6; Karsdorp 5, Mancini 5, Smalling 5, Ibanez 6; Sergio Oliveira 6, Mkhitaryan 7, Zalewski 6; Pellegrini 6, El Shaarawy 6; Abraham 6.
Subs: Veretout 6, Perez 6, Vina 6, Shomorudov 7, Brove 6.
18′ FANTASTIC EFFORT FROM CALHANOGLU! There we go! He launches a bullet from 25 yards which Patricio gets across to parry and then denies Martinez on the follow up, though the forward was offside in any case.
29′ WHAT A CHANCE FOR MANCINI – Pellegrini put a perfect free kick into the box from the right flank and the centre back rose highest but, though he made good contact, he headed wide.
30′ GOAL FOR INTER! Dumfries with a cool finish. Roma made to pay for their miss immediately. Calhanoglu slid a ball through the middle for the Dutch wing-back who raced past Roma’s high line and slotted past Patricio.
40′ GOAL FOR INTER! And a great finish from Brozovic. He looked to be going towards the by-line but turned inside Mancini and smashed the ball inside the top right upright.
52′ GOAL FOR INTER! That is the game. Somehow Martinez is the one who meets the corner and heads home unchecked.
85′ GOAL FOR ROMA! And a fantastic one at that as Mkhitaryan met Shmurodov’s fine cut back from the by-line with a side-footed effort which rocketed into the top corner.