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Martinez: Inter must challenge Juventus next season

Lautaro Martinez believes Inter can mount a challenge to Juventus next season but says Luciano Spalletti’s side must focus on securing Champions League qualification.

Inter sit third in Serie A heading into Saturday’s Derby d’Italia, five points above AC Milan and Atalanta, who are fourth and fifth respectively.

Twenty-six points separate Juventus, crowned champions for an eighth successive season when they beat Fiorentina 2-1 last time out, and Inter in the table.

But Martinez – who has instilled himself as a regular starter under Spalletti and scored six league goals this term – believes the Nerazzurri are capable of closing the gap next season.

“Seeing the points, we would say that the difference is great,” Martinez told Gazzetta dello Sport.

“We are aware of this, but in the next season we have to change this. We are a great club, it is essential to do so.

“My big dream is to win a championship with Inter. But to do that, it’s not enough to talk about it. Everyone needs to be convinced psychologically: the fans, the manager and players.

“We cannot fail to qualify in the Champions League this season, it is the last goal we have left.”

Martinez started just two league fixtures prior to November, but since then has started nine times in Serie A, making 30 appearances in total across all competitions.

And the 21-year-old is thrilled with how his maiden season at Inter has worked out.

“This year I’ve put together so many minutes, I’m happy,” he added.

“In pre-season I played and scored a lot, then I had to go to the bench. I came from Racing where I always played, here I had an icon like [Mauro] Icardi, captain and top scorer in front of me.

“I knew it would be difficult to play, he would never come out: either one or the other, never together. But talking to my family, I never lacked confidence. I grew up, I know my responsibilities.”

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Pordenone would´ve deserved Coppa Italia progression, admits Spalletti

Luciano Spalletti conceded Pordenone would have deserved it had the third-tier side advanced in the Coppa Italia as Inter survived an almighty scare in the last 16.

Unbeaten Serie A leaders Inter required penalties to see off Pordenone at San Siro on Tuesday, triumphing 5-4 in a shoot-out following a goalless draw after extra time in Milan.

Daniele Padelli and Yuto Nagatomo were the heroes from the spot for Inter, who had the former to thank in the first half as the stand-in goalkeeper turned Simone Magnaghi’s shot onto the woodwork.

“The players who have played less found it difficult tonight, because Pordenone had quality in the middle of the park,” Spalletti told Rai.

“We couldn’t take control of the ball to play, we felt challenged instead of everyone dealing with their various roles, and then from a psychological point of view everything became more difficult because they became fired-up with the passage of time.

“I’ve been through their situation many times and I know the psychological effect it has.

“The difference [in quality] was there on the pitch and maybe I didn’t do my job well because we were below our potential, maybe the alert didn’t arrive as it should have.

“In the second half we were better, in extra-time too when they parked the bus and defended really well.

“In some situations we were unlucky, but they were too since they hit the post. At the end I saw the posts again, I was losing confidence!

“It was a really tough qualification, the ball becomes heavy for everyone on penalties. I congratulate these players, because they deserve it.

“Pordenone would have deserved it if they’d have gone through though, [Daniele] Padelli did well on the penalties.”

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Inter 5 Chievo 0: Spalletti´s men go top of Serie A for first time in nearly two years

Ivan Perisic grabbed a hat-trick as Inter crushed Chievo 5-0 to move to the top of Serie A for the first time since January 2016.

Luciano Spalletti’s men were hoping to take full advantage of Napoli’s slip-up at home to Juventus on Saturday and did so in style, cruising to a third successive league victory.

Although the home side wasted several good chances early on, they never looked back after taking the lead through Perisic’s 23rd-minute strike.

Mauro Icardi effectively put the game beyond Chievo with a powerful finish seven minutes before half-time, taking his tally to 16 in 15 league appearances this season.

The hosts were far from done, however, with a quick-fire double early in the second half giving the scoreline a rather more impressive look, Perisic and Milan Skriniar getting the goals.

Perisic completed the rout, and his treble, with a left-footed finish late on as Inter moved on to 39 points, one clear of Napoli.

Inter looked every inch a side determined to put themselves top of the table, attacking Chievo relentlessly from the outset.

They went close twice inside the first six minutes, with Andrea Ranocchia – playing in Serie A for the first time since mid-September – heading just over, before Antonio Candreva forced Stefano Sorrentino into a save from a tight angle.

But Inter’s dominance paid off midway through the first half – Perisic blasting home on the rebound after Sorrentino had parried a Davide Santon effort into his path.

It should have been 2-0 soon after, but Joao Mario failed to finish after being fed in the area by Icardi on the break.

They did double their lead just before half-time, though, as Icardi raced on to Marcelo Brozovic’s through pass and found the net from an acute angle, with Sorrentino likely to be disappointed after getting a touch to it.

Little changed in terms of the flow of the match after the break and Inter got their third just before the hour mark, Perisic pouncing on a poor pass and then drilling a left-footed effort across Sorrentino and into the bottom-right corner.

And they scored another with their very next attack.

Brozovic released Candreva with a wonderful pass up the right flank and the wing-back picked out Skriniar with an inch-perfect cross for an easy headed finish.

Inter looked eager to score as many goals as possible and crafted another couple of chances in the final 10 minutes, with Perisic and Brozovic both going close from long range.

And they did eventually add further gloss to the scoreline with a fifth, as Perisic dragged a left-footed effort into the bottom-right corner from the edge of the box to complete his hat-trick in stoppage time and wrap up a brilliant win.

Key Opta stats:

– Mauro Icardi has scored 16 goals in Serie A this season, the last player to have scored so many goals after the first 15 Serie A matchdays was Luca Toni in 2005/06 when he played for Fiorentina.
– Inter have collected 39 points in Serie A, the last team to have taken so many points after the first 15 Serie A matchdays were Juventus in 2013/14 (40 points in that case).
– Ivan Perisic scored his first hat-trick in the top 5 European Leagues.
– The 39 shots attempted by Inter in this match is a record in this Serie A season.
– Davide Santon made his 100th appearance for Inter in all competitions.

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Inter 1 Torino 1: Eder strikes to preserve unbeaten record

Substitute Eder scored a late equaliser as Inter preserved their unbeaten record in Serie A with an entertaining 1-1 draw against Torino at San Siro.

Torino’s Iago Falque scored his fourth goal in his last six league games with an excellent individual effort in the second half, as missed chances and an impressive performance from Torino goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu frustrated Inter.

But Eder, who signed a new contract this week, smashed in from close range with 11 minutes remaining to salvage a point and make it 12 league games without defeat for the hosts going into the international break.

Luciano Spalletti’s men had won nine and drawn two of their first 11 league games this season, but after the head coach had to dismiss comparisons with club icon Jose Mourinho in the build-up to the game, this result will also serve to temper expectations.

Inter could have gone top with a victory ahead of the other Serie A matches on Sunday, but now they may fall as low as fourth if Juventus and Lazio win their games against Benevento and Udinese respectively.

Unbeaten leaders Napoli, meanwhile, are away to Chievo and will move four points clear of Inter if they secure victory.

Torino are seventh in the table after making it four points from their last two games.

The visitors were the first to threaten when a left-footed strike from Daniele Baselli forced Samir Handanovic to get down sharply to save and just about hold on.

After being found by Antonio Candreva, Mauro Icardi scuffed a shot straight at Sirigu at the other end, while Roberto Gagliardini fired over with 30-yard drive.

Inter then created an excellent chance, with a corner from the left flicked on by Matias Vecino into the path of Milan Skriniar, whose looping header looked destined to find the top corner until Sirigu produced a superb fingertip save.

Handanovic then produced similar heroics at the other end, with the home goalkeeper at full stretch to tip away Baselli’s flicked header after excellent work from Cristian Ansaldi down the left to create the opportunity.

It was Sirigu’s turn to shine again early in the second half, the 30-year-old producing a reaction save to keep out Vecino’s header from Yuto Nagatomo’s left-wing cross.

And that proved crucial when Torino moved in front just before the hour mark, Falque collecting a pass from Lorenzo De Silvestri and dribbling inside from the right past the challenges of Miranda and Gagliardini before firing a left-footed effort into the bottom corner from 20 yards.

Icardi almost responded when he showed composure to beat Nicolas N’Koulou in the penalty area, only to blaze over his finish.

Torino should have put the game to bed when Joel Obi somehow headed Adem Ljajic’s free-kick wide from two yards against his former club and an end-to-end battle continued when an aerial effort from Skriniar was just off target for Inter.

The visitors’ star man Andrea Belotti was relatively quiet and should have done better when he dragged a shot wide on the break as the match entered its closing stages.

And Inter grabbed a leveller soon after as Ivan Perisic’s cross was cushioned into the path of Eder by Icardi, the Italy international finding the top corner from six yards just 10 minutes after coming on for Gagliardini, his first goal of the season.

There was almost a dramatic winner for Inter as Vecino, from oceans of space, smashed an effort against the top of the crossbar from 30 yards, but the visitors held on for a point.

Key Opta Facts:

– Inter have been unbeaten in their first 12 league games for the first time since 2007/08.
– Torino have conceded a goal in all of their last nine league games.
– Inter have scored 10 goals in the last 15 minutes, more than any other team in this Serie A.
– Iago Falque scored with his only shot in this game.

– Mauro Icardi has delivered an assist in Serie A for the first time since January against Pescara.

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Benevento 1 Inter 2: Brozovic fires Nerazzurri to victory

Inter extended their unbeaten run to seven games under Luciano Spalletti as Marcelo Brozovic’s quickfire double helped them to a 2-1 victory over Serie A basement club Benevento.

Brozovic has failed to cement a place in Spalletti’s first-choice starting XI during the opening stages of the campaign, but he did his chances of doing so no harm with a fine brace midway through the first half at Stadio Ciro Vigorito.

Having headed in his first goal of the season to put Inter ahead, Brozovic displayed his quality with a sumptuous free-kick moments later.

And that strike ultimately proved decisive, with Benevento’s second league goal of the season – courtesy of Marco D’Alessandro – applying some pressure.

Indeed, Inter were fortunate not to be pegged back in the second half, Spalletti’s side saved by the woodwork from D’Alessandro’s header.

However, despite Benevento pushing for a first point of the campaign, a comeback never materialised, and Inter claimed the spoils to move – temporarily at least – above Juventus into second place.

Inter predictably started on the front foot, with centre-back pairing Miranda and Milan Skriniar both testing Benevento goalkeeper Vid Belec.

Spalletti’s side had their breakthrough inside 19 minutes, though – Antonio Candreva engineering room for a cross that Brozovic duly headed home.

Benevento were further behind three minutes later, Brozovic doubling his tally for the season with a sublime free-kick that nestled in the top-right corner.

Inter’s lead looked to have been cut almost immediately, only for Pietro Iemmello’s goal to be harshly disallowed for offside after Ledian Memushaj’s strike had clattered the crossbar.

Mauro Icardi had the ball in the net on the half-hour mark, though again the goal was chalked off for offside, while D’Alessandro flashed a strike wide at the other end.

D’Alessandro did better prior to the interval, however, when he latched on to Iemmello’s throughball to dispatch coolly past Samir Handanovic.

The Benevento winger was desperately unlucky not to restore parity after the restart, his close-range header rebounding back off the left-hand upright.

Brozovic nearly turned provider shortly after the hour, when his wicked cross picked out Ivan Perisic, who was unable to direct his header on target.

D’Alessandro continued to threaten for the hosts, while Icardi could have put a disappointing display behind him late on, only for Inter’s skipper to skew his close-range effort over.

Ultimately, though, Icardi’s miss mattered little, as Inter held firm to make it six wins from Spalletti’s opening seven games in charge.

Key Opta stats:

– Inter have collected 19 points over the opening seven matches of a Serie A campaign for the first time since 2002.
– Benevento are the third side – after Venezia in 1949 and Legnano in 1951 – to lose each of the opening seven matches of a Serie A campaign.
– Inter have scored the most headers (4) in Serie A so far this season.

– Marcelo Brozovic scored his second brace in Serie A – the first came in December 2016 against Genoa.

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Inter 1 Genoa 0: Late D´Ambrosio header snatches victory for Spalletti´s side

Danilo D’Ambrosio was the unlikely hero for Inter as they battled to a 1-0 win at home to nine-man Genoa in Serie A on Sunday, moving two points behind leaders Napoli and Juventus.

Luciano Spalletti’s men won their first four matches of the new campaign, but after drawing with Bologna on Tuesday they seemed to have failed to break a stubborn Genoa side down at the San Siro until D’Ambrosio’s decisive late impact.

Marcelo Brozovic struck the post for Inter in the last minute of a lacklustre first half and Genoa had narrowly been the better of the two sides before the break.

The visitors had plenty of chances of their own to win it, teenage forward Pietro Pellegri wasting the best of their opportunities with a diving header from Davide Biraschi’s right-wing cross.

But Genoa’s resistance crumbled from a basic set-piece with three minutes to go, D’Ambrosio rising highest to nod in Joao Mario’s deep left-wing corner, then Stephane Omeonga and Adel Taarabt were both dismissed as Ivan Juric’s men lost all composure in the closing moments.

Spalletti has continually played down his side’s Scudetto chances but, on this evidence, they could challenge for a first Serie A title since 2009-10.

Inter wanted a response after the disappointment of dropping their first points of the season against Bologna and Ivan Perisic almost gave them the lead in the first minute, but the winger’s dipping volley landed on the roof of the net.

The hosts were struggling to get going and they were indebted to captain Mauro Icardi for a fine challenge on Pellegri, the striker tracking back into his own box to deny the 16-year-old.

Pellegri had an even better chance after 38 minutes but, with Milan Skriniar stretching to clear, the teenager took his eye off the ball and sent his diving header wide of the post.

Taarabt was pulling the strings for Genoa and the Moroccan forced a fine save from Samir Handanovic, the Inter goalkeeper diving to his left to turn the drive away.

That warning shot seemed to wake Inter up and they struck the woodwork moments before the break as Brozovic beat Mattia Perin with a 20-yard strike, only to be denied by the goalkeeper’s left-hand post.

Chances continued to flow after the interval, Omeonga making excellent ground and cutting inside off the right flank to cross for Diego Laxalt, who fired a first-time shot over the crossbar.

Spalletti turned to Eder on the hour mark, the Italy international replacing Antonio Candreva, but Genoa remained firm at the back, Perin beating away Brozovic’s drive.

Perin saved again from Brozovic after 69 minutes, before the suddenly busy goalkeeper tipped away a ferocious Eder shot.

As the game opened up Handanovic had to be alert to deny Omeonga and the opening goal finally arrived with three minutes to go.

Joao Mario’s corner reached D’Ambrosio at the back post and the defender nodded the ball across goal to break the deadlock for his side.

Genoa had deserved a draw on balance but they ended the game in disarray with two quick red cards as Omeonga was sent off for dragging down Eder with the striker through on goal, before Taarabt saw red for a horrible challenge on Yann Karamoh.

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Crotone 0 Inter 2: Skriniar and Perisic deliver as Spalletti´s side leave it late

Late goals from Milan Skriniar and Ivan Perisic helped maintain Inter’s 100 per cent start to the Serie A season as they edged past a stubborn Crotone side 2-0.

Luciano Spalletti’s men looked in real danger of dropping their first points of the campaign at Stadio Ezio Scida before Slovakian defender Skriniar poked home with just eight minutes remaining.

Croatian forward Perisic then doubled Inter’s advantage in stoppage time with a low strike.

Joao Mario had missed a golden opportunity to give Inter the lead in the first half, while Crotone’s best chance went to Marcus Rohden, whose close-range header was superbly kept out by Nerazzurri goalkeeper Samir Handanovic.

It was a hugely improved performance from Crotone, but they are yet to score in four games so far this season.

Inter will hope to maintain their impressive start when they travel to Bologna on Tuesday, while Crotone will be eyeing their first three points – and goal – of the campaign with a trip to Atalanta on Wednesday.

Inter started confidently, but it was the hosts who enjoyed the first sight of goal after eight minutes. Aleksandar Tonev picked Miranda’s pocket on the halfway line and burst towards Inter’s box, but his drilled shot was comfortably repelled by Handanovic.

Perisic then had Inter’s first effort on goal but he struggled to generate enough power on his left-footed shot to trouble Alex Cordaz.

Just a minute later and Handanovic was called into action again. Ante Budimir failed to make a clean connection on his long-range half-volley, but the Inter goalkeeper could only fumble it around the post when it looked easier to gather.

Joao Mario then missed a golden opportunity to give his side the lead just before the half-hour mark.

Borja Valero stole possession just inside the Crotone half before releasing Perisic, whose through ball was latched onto by Joao Mario. The Portuguese international, though, was only able to roll his low shot past Cordaz’s far post.

The final chance of the half went to the hosts as Bruno Martella’s fierce drive from a short free-kick careered agonisingly past Handanovic’s post.

The half-time break did little to halt Crotone’s momentum and they should have been ahead five minutes into the second period.

Tonev latched onto a long ball over the top of the Inter defence, but when confronted with Handanovic he could only hit his effort into the body of the Slovenian.

Handanovic was called into action again midway through the second half with a stunning save.

Rohden met a teasing cross with a close-range header but the Inter keeper showed incredible reflexives to tip the ball over the bar.

Just when it looked like Inter would have to settle for a point, Skriniar stepped up in the 82nd minute and prodded home after a scramble in the middle of the Crotone area.

Perisic then compounded Crotone’s misery with a deflected strike to wrap up all three points.

Key Opta stats:

– The last team which have failed to score in the first four Serie A games was Venezia in 1998-99.
– Inter have won their first four Serie A games of the season for the sixth time. In the previous four, they finished in the top four at the end of the season.
– Inter have kept two clean sheet in a row for the first time since February.
– Ivan Perisic has had a hand in 10 goals (six assists, four goals) in his last six Serie A games.

– Milan Skriniar has scored his first goal in Serie A, in his 42th appearance.

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Inter penalty awarded after five-minute video consultation penalty awarded after five-minute video consultation

MILAN- The referee took over five minutes to award Inter Milan a penalty after consulting with the video assistant (VAR) in their 2-0 win over SPAL in Italy’s Serie A on Sunday.

Inter midfielder Joao Mario went down on the edge of the penalty area under a challenge from Francesco Vicari in the 22nd minute and referee Claudio Gavillucci quickly called for the video replay.

After a lengthy consultation, the official finally awarded a penalty and Inter captain Mauro Icardi sent Alfred Gomis the wrong way for his fifth goal in three games, officially recorded as being scored in the 27th minute.

Ivan Perisic completed Inter’s win with a thumping volley in the 87th minute to leave his side with nine points from their opening three games and hand SPAL a first defeat of the season.

In between, Milan Skriniar crashed a long-range effort against the crossbar after spotting Gomis off his line.

SPAL, who have returned to the top flight after a 49-year absence, were far from outclassed and created several dangerous situations.

Serie A is one of several national leagues trialling the VAR system before soccer’s rule-making body IFAB decides whether to permit their use on a permanent basis.

FIFA are hoping to use VARs at next year’s World Cup.

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Inter 3 Fiorentina 0: Icardi double condemns Pioli to miserable return

Icardi goals in the opening 15 minutes at San Siro secured an opening-day victory for Inter against Fiorentina in Serie A.Mauro Icardi’s early brace ensured a miserable return to San Siro for Fiorentina coach Stefano Pioli as Inter ran out 3-0 winners on the opening weekend of the Serie A season.

Pioli was sacked by Inter in May after a stuttering six months in charge and any intended revenge mission was halted inside quarter of an hour by Luciano Spalletti’s rampant side.

Icardi had been a doubt for this game and hobbled away from one heavy first-half challenge but not before he had twice found the net – with a penalty and a header – in a spectacular start to the campaign.

While Inter’s captain grabbed the goals, it was Ivan Perisic – reportedly set to sign a new contract despite interest from Manchester United – who really thrilled, running the visitors ragged, laying on Icardi’s second and then himself netting the clinching third.

Inter may have enviously observed the off-season transfer business that looks to have made title contenders of city rivals AC Milan, but keeping the brilliant Croatia winger is surely key to any Nerazzurri challenge.
Even as Inter’s momentum slowed in the second half of this clash, before Perisic’s goal, Fiorentina debutant Giovanni Simeone threatened only sporadically at the other end as the visitors felt the absence of impending Milan signing Nikola Kalinic from their ranks.

After 24 league goals last term, it took Icardi less than five minutes to get his first of the new campaign.
The Inter captain chested down Yuto Nagatomo’s high angled pass, but was bundled over by Davide Astori’s clumsy challenge in the area and Icardi quickly jumped to his feet to bury the subsequent spot-kick.
Matias Vecino – debuting, like Borja Valero, against his former club – could have quickly added a second but sliced wide from Perisic’s pinpoint cross.

The wait for another goal lasted only until the 15th minute, though, as Icardi doubled his tally with a towering header into the bottom-left corner from Perisic’s swirling right-wing delivery.

Only a smart low Marco Sportiello stop denied the hosts a third from Marcelo Brozovic’s drive, before Samir Handanovic saved for the first time as Simeone sent a firm header goalwards.

Referee Paolo Tagliavento deferred to the VAR shortly before half-time as Simeone went down in the area, but the decision went Inter’s way and the home side regained their stride after the restart.

Sportiello had to be alert to parry from Icardi and catch Vitor Hugo’s skewed clearance and then watched helplessly as Perisic’s strike flashed just past the top-left corner.

Fiorentina substitute Khouma Babacar responded with a sharp shot that tested Handanovic at full stretch, but Roberto Gagliardini – also introduced from the bench – should have secured the points for Inter from Icardi’s selfless pass, only to instead blaze over an open goal.

That miss briefly kept the visitors in the hunt, and Jordan Veretout struck the post with a stunning 25-yard effort, before Perisic finally added the third, stooping to nod Joao Mario’s cross past Sportiello.

Icardi almost hit a hat-trick goal in the final 10 minutes, but the Fiorentina goalkeeper – too often left to fend for himself – saved brilliantly to limit the scoring.