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Icardi brace sees Inter Milan stun wasteful Roma

Milan (AFP) – Mauro Icardi scored a second-half brace as Inter Milan rocked Roma 3-1 at the Stadio Olimpico on Saturday to send out an early-season statement of intent to their Serie A title rivals.

An early opener from Edin Dzeko, Serie A’s top scorer last season with 29 goals, had a packed Olimpico jumping in anticipation of Roma starting their home campaign with a win.

But the hosts, playing under the watchful eye of new club director Francesco Totti, were stunned into silence in a thrilling second half.

Inter followed Juventus — 4-2 comeback winners at Genoa thanks to a Paulo Dybala hat-trick — in making it back-to-back victories to start the season and also vindicated their new coach Luciano Spalletti.

Spalletti brought his second spell in charge of Roma to an end last season, when the saga surrounding club legend Totti’s possible retirement weighed heavily on the coach’s shoulders.

He moved to Inter determined to make a fresh start with an underperforming side, who finished seventh and out of Europe altogether.

And in only two games, Spalletti has won over the Inter faithful. Saturday’s win, a week after a 3-0 San Siro triumph over Fiorentina, was Inter’s first at the Olimpico since 2008.

Yet, trailing 1-0 and having seen Roma’s Aleksandar Kolarov and Radja Nainggolan both hit the woodwork in the opening half, there was little to suggest Spalletti’s men would launch a successful comeback.

Inter escaped trial by the VAR on 55 minutes when Milan Skriniar appeared to trip Diego Perotti at the by-line.

And Roma hit the woodwork for the third time on 65 minutes when Perotti’s drive bounced off the inside of the far top corner.

Two minutes later, even Icardi appeared surprised to see Antonio Candreva’s smart threaded pass land at his feet. But the Argentine swivelled to send a low shot past Roma keeper Alisson.

Roma spurned a great chance to restore their lead when new Inter defender Dalbert raced back to clear off the line after Stephan El Shaarawy’s lob had beaten Samir Handanovic.

The home crowd was stunned into silence on 77 minutes when Icardi turned on the spot again to fire Ivan Perisic’s delivery into the near bottom corner.

Icardi spurned the chance for his hat-trick when he held off Kostas Manolas to test Alisson, while at the other end a Nainggolan drive was blocked by Dalbert.

But the visitors put the result beyond doubt three minutes from time, Perisic coasting past former Inter defender Juan Jesus deep on the left to deliver for Matias Vecino, who sneaked in behind Manolas to tap home.

Earlier Saturday, Dybala’s treble rescued victory for Juve.

With confidence still flying high after last season’s shock 3-1 home win over the champions, Genoa looked on their way to causing another upset after breaching Gianluigi Buffon’s goal twice in the opening minutes thanks to a Miralem Pjanic own goal and Andrej Galabinov’s penalty.

But the defending champions refused to buckle, Dybala reducing the arrears on 14 minutes before equalising with a penalty on the stroke of half-time.

Juan Cuadrado’s curling effort on the hour put Juve ahead before Dybala wrapped it up with his third in the second minute of added time.

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