Milan (AFP) – Christian Eriksen and Achraf Hakimi scored in the second half as Inter Milan beat Crotone 2-0 to move to the brink of the Serie A title on Saturday.
Antonio Conte’s side are 13 points ahead of city rivals AC Milan who reclaimed second place with a 2-0 win over 18th-placed Benevento, with four games to play.
Inter can claim their first Scudetto since 2010 on Sunday if Atalanta, a further point adrift in third, fail to win at Sassuolo.
“We are succeeding in toppling a kingdom that had lasted for nine years,” said former Juventus coach Conte, who led the Turin giants to the first three of their current run of nine consecutive league titles.
“We’re aware that we can do something extraordinary because Inter haven’t won a Scudetto in 11 years, and we’re breaking up a dynasty. The lads deserve this joy, congratulations to them.
“We’re a step away from making history.”
Dane Eriksen came on as a substitute in the 65th minute and scored four minutes later, firing home a shot which took a deflection off Crotone defender Lisandro Magallan, from Romelu Lukaku’s lay-off.
Lukaku had a goal ruled out before Hakimi struck a second in injury time.
“It’s an important goal because it moves us closer to the title, but we still haven’t won it yet,” said Eriksen of just his second goal this campaign.
“If it proves to be the decisive goal, then obviously it’ll be the most important one of the season. Every goal is important, but the one that takes you to your objective is extra special.
“Today, I came on as a substitute, and when you do this the aim is to make your mark: you want to shake things up. I’m happy that I managed to do so.”
– Ibrahimovic return lifts Milan –
The match in Calabria pitted the Serie A leaders against the bottom team who were relegated as a result of the loss.
Both sides had chances in the first half with Adam Ounas threatening early for the hosts who lost defender Arkadiusz Reca to injury before the break.
Lukaku headed onto the post off a Stefano Sensi corner after 23 minutes.
There was a flurry of activity in front of the Crotone goal before the break with Alessandro Bastoni sending wide after connecting with a Nicolo Barella cross.
Lautaro Martinez’s low shot hit the woodwork before home goalkeeper Alex Cordaz cleared a Sensi effort.
As Inter struggled to break through Conte sent on Eriksen, Ivan Perisic and Alexis Sanchez after 65 minutes.
And the substitutions paid off with Sanchez providing a back-heel flick for Lukaku who teed up Eriksen.
Lukaku missed a chance to add to his 21 goals this campaign with a goal ruled out with seven minutes to go for Perisic’s offside position.
But Barella sent Moroccan Hakimi clear to beat Cordaz with his seventh goal this season to extend Inter’s unbeaten run to 18 league games, and close to a 19th league crown.
“We’ll watch the (Atalanta) game in our homes, in a serene way,” continued Conte.
“For us what happens tomorrow is relative, we don’t ask anything of anyone. We don’t depend on others, especially after such a championship.”
In the San Siro, Milan rallied from back-to-back defeats to move up from fifth to second and keep in the Champions League chase.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic returned from injury with Hakan Calhanoglu putting the home side ahead after six minutes following good work from Alexis Saelemaekers and Franck Kessie.
Benevento goalkeeper Lorenzo Montipo got his foot to an Ibrahimovic goal-bound effort before the break, and again cleared from the Swede after the hour but Theo Hernandez was on hand to finish off the rebound.
Napoli are fourth equal on points with Juventus who drop to fifth before they play at Udinese on Sunday.
Inter could decide Juve’s Champions League fate as they meet in the penultimate game in Turin in two weeks.
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