Lukaku double keeps Inter on top of Italian league - GulfToday

Lukaku double keeps Inter on top of Italian league


Inter Milan’s Romelu Lukaku (left) scores past Napoli’s Italian defender Giovanni Di Lorenzo during their Italian League match at the San Paolo Stadium in Naples on Monday. Agence France-Presse

Romelu Lukaku scored twice as Inter Milan held on to top spot in Serie A on Monday with a 3-1 win over Napoli to keep the pressure on Juventus who earlier swept past Cagliari with Cristiano Ronaldo netting his first hat-trick in the Italian top flight.

Antonio Conte’s Inter ended their 23-year wait for a league win in Naples to stay in pole position, level on points with Juventus after 18 games, but ahead on goal difference.

Lazio are third, six points adrift but with a game in hand, after stretching their winning run in the league to nine matches on Sunday with a 2-1 victory over Brescia.

“It’s an important victory, winning away to Napoli is never easy,” said Conte after his 100th Serie A win as a coach but first in Naples.

“Napoli have in recent years always been behind Juventus, while Inter was a long way back. This year we have reduced the gap.” Inter’s three goals all came from mistakes from Napoli, runners-up the past two seasons but only eighth this term.

Lukaku broke through on 14 minutes with a powerful solo run through the Napoli defence, with goalkeeper Alex Meret fumbling the second into goal in the 33rd minute.

Polish striker Arkadiusz Milik pulled a goal back for Napoli four minutes before the break.

But Lautaro Martinez added the third after the hour mark, following another mix-up in the Napoli defence, to give Inter their first win at the Stadio San Paolo since October 1997.

“We made lots of mistakes and scored three goals on our own,” said Napoli coach Gennaro Gattuso.

“The lads are worried because they are used to challenging for the Scudetto and this year it’s like this.”

Lukaku and Ronaldo’s goals overshadowed Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s return for AC Milan as the Swedish star came off the bench in the 55th minute in a goalless draw against Sampdoria.

The 38-year-old had not played since leaving MLS side LA Galaxy in October.

He came on for Poland striker Krzysztof Piatek to deafening applause from the San Siro crowd after rejoining the club last week.

But there was little else to cheer for the hosts who extended their winless run to three games and remain 12th in the table.

“I felt a lot of adrenaline, emotion, it brought me back nine or 10 years,” said Ibrahimovic, who was top scorer in Serie A with Milan in the 2011-12 campaign before leaving for Paris Saint-Germain.

“I wanted to get on the pitch, score a goal and then celebrate like a God in front of the Curva! But it will happen next time.” The seven-time European champions are 13 points off Champions League qualification, a competition they have not played since the 2013-14 season.

Milan coach Stefano Pioli said the team were still reeling from their 5-0 defeat by Atalanta last time out.

“The disastrous defeat in Bergamo has remained within us,” said Pioli. “It is a shame not to have won. Ibra’s impact was absolutely positive.

“He immediately gave support, but the team is not yet used to his presence, we could look to him more.” Atalanta continued their fine form, closing to within a point of fourth-placed Roma, who lost 2-0 to Torino on Sunday, with another 5-0 rout, this time of seventh-placed Parma.

Atalanta were already three goals up before the break thanks to Papu Gomez, Remo Freuler and Robin Gosens, with Josip Ilicic adding a second-half double.

Agence France-Presse

Italian League results on Monday:

Bologna 1 (Orsolini 90+4) Fiorentina 1 (Benassi 27); AC Milan 0 Sampdoria 0; Juventus 4 (Ronaldo 49, 67-pen, 82, Higuain 81) Cagliari 0; Atalanta 5 (Gomez 11, Freuler 34, Gosens 43, Ilicic 60, 71) Parma 0; Lecce 0 Udinese 1 (De Paul 89); Napoli 1 (Milik 39) Inter Milan 3 (Lukaku 14, 33, Martínez 62)

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