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Romelu Lukaku scored twice and helped another to help Inter to a 3-1 win over Lazio that lifted Antonio Conte’s men above their bitter rivals Milan to the top of Serie A.
Milan’s shock 2-0 loss to Spezia on Saturday opened the door for Inter and they pounced on the San Siro on Sunday, taking a one-point lead in next weekend’s big Derby della Madonnina.
Lazio were furious with Inter’s penalty award in the 22nd minute when replays appeared to show Wesley Hoedt, recruited after Stefan Radu was injured in the warm-up, take part of the ball before taking Lautaro Martínez out.
Lukaku converted and added a second before the break with the help of the VAR, before setting up Martinez to seal the points after Gonzalo Escalante gave Lazio some temporary hope.
– Lega Series A (@SerieA_EN) February 14, 2021
There was little between the sides before the controversial penalty penalty, with the VAR backing referee Michael Fabbri’s decision to mark the spot for Hoedt’s challenge to Martinez.
Lukaku sent Pepe Reina down the wrong path to extend his perfect penalty penalty record in Serie A from 10 to 10, and the Belgian international didn’t have to wait long for his historic 300th career goal for the club and the country.
He was somewhat lucky when Marcelo Brozovic slid over Manuel Lazzari and the ball bounced off the forward’s path, although it took a lengthy VAR check to determine that Lukaku was level with the last man when the opening pass was made.
However, Lazio had found the net in each of their last 17 league outings, and they maintained that streak when a Sergej Milinkovic-Savic free kick strongly deflected substitute Escalante and beat Samir Handanovic in his 500th appearance in the league. A series.
But just when the visitors had some momentum on their side, Lukaku charged down the right, holding Marco Parolo at bay and selflessly squared the ball for Martinez to take advantage of in an empty net.
Reina denied Lukaku a hat-trick with a good save on the downside, but Inter, knocked out of the Coppa Italia by Juventus midweek, retained their two-goal cushion to advance to the top.
What does that mean? Advantage to Inter before the Milan match
This weekend could prove huge in terms of the Scudetto’s career, with Milan and Juventus losing and Inter winning for the third game in a row to reach the top.
Lazio were undefeated in seven league games in 2021, winning the last six of them and scoring more points since the turn of the year (19) than any other team.
But Conte’s men passed the ordeal, albeit with some favorable refereeing decisions, and enter next weekend’s derby against Milan with their title hopes in their own hands.
Lukaku in the double
Lukaku had scored in just one of his last six league games before Sunday and was without a goal against Lazio in 263 minutes since joining Inter.
He fixed that with a pair of first-half goals here and set up Martinez with a sensational assist that combined a mix of pace, power and composure.
| BIG ROM
– Inter (@Inter_en) February 14, 2021
Motionless shoots a target
Lazio have a prolific forward in the Ciro Immobile, but the Italian international managed a single shot, well controlled by Handanovic in the first half, in his 70 minutes on the field.
However, Immobile created three great opportunities for his teammates, a tally improved only by Inter winger Ivan Perisic (four), who was again replacing on the left back.
Opta key facts
– Handanovic became the 15th player to play 500 games in Serie A and only the second foreign player, after Javier Zanetti.
– Inter have won two consecutive home games in Serie A against Lazio for the first time since January 2012.
– Lukaku scored his third double in top flight home games this season. No player in the top five European leagues has more.
– Martinez has scored in each of their last two games against Lazio in Serie A, having failed to register in the previous two games against them.
Inter have that big clash at the top of the table with neighboring Milan to look forward to next Sunday, while Lazio is at home to Sampdoria on their return to action in six days.