Milan (AFP) – Inter Milan kept up their Serie A title defence with Saturday’s straight-forward 2-0 win over Verona which took them to within a point of leaders AC Milan.
First-half goals from Nicolo Barella and Edin Dzeko in front of around 60,000 fans at a sun-dappled San Siro made sure that the champions built on their morale-boosting win at Juventus last weekend by moving into second place, seven points ahead of their rivals in Turin who take on Cagliari later on Saturday.
Inter are level on 66 points with Napoli, who host Fiorentina on Sunday, and ahead of Luciano Spalletti’s side in the table thanks to their superior head-to-head record.
Milan meanwhile are at Torino in Sunday’s late match with their two title rivals breathing down their necks with seven rounds of fixtures remaining.
Verona have never won at the San Siro against either Inter or Milan and were suffocated in a first half which reminded Inter fans why their team were strong favourites for the title right up until early February, when they were four points clear having played one game less than their rivals.
They still have that game in hand, at Bologna later this month, and will have been further boosted by the way they beat one of the league’s most troublesome teams.
Italy midfielder Barella gave the hosts a deserved lead in the 22nd minute, nipping in at the back post to poke home a beautifully clipped Ivan Perisic cross which had evaded a clutch of Inter attackers and Verona defenders.
Inter’s tails were up as the crowd roared their enthusiasm and Lorenzo Montipo kept Joaquin Correa from doubling their lead four minutes later.
However he could do nothing about Dzeko’s 13th Serie A goal for Inter on the half-hour mark, the Bosnian left to tap in from practically on the goal line after Perisic flicked on Federico Dimarco’s corner.
Goalkeeper Samir Handanovic then made sure that Inter went in at the break two ahead 10 minutes before the break by charging out to stop Giovanni Simeone from scoring his 17th league goal of the season, and from there the home side shut up shop.
Verona came out looking for some pride after being humbled in the opening 45 minutes but although Simeone and Kevin Lasagna got decent shots off it was Inter who should have added to their lead at least twice more.
Denzel Dumfries shanked an awful shot into the side netting after sliding past Darko Lazovic seconds after the break, while in the 73rd minute, Danilo D’Ambrosio was denied by the impressive Montipo who just managed to tip a close-range finish onto the near post.
That was it for major action as Inter left the stage for Milan and Napoli in the most enthralling title race in a generation.
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