Inter 2-0 Lecce: Mkhitaryan and Martinez put Nerazzurri back on course
Inter moved back to second place in Serie A after Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Lautaro Martinez were on target in a 2-0 victory over Lecce on Sunday.
Simone Inzaghi's side underwhelmed in a 1-0 defeat to Bologna last weekend but produced a much-improved performance to return to winning ways at San Siro.
Mkhitaryan's first-half opener set Inter on their way before top scorer Martinez's 14th league goal of the season made sure of the three points in the second half.
Victory saw Inzaghi's men leapfrog Lazio and cut Napoli's sizeable advantage at the summit to 15 points after the Partenopei lost to Maurizio Sarri's side on Friday.
Hakan Calhanoglu stung the palms of Wladimiro Falcone, while Andre Onana kept out a low Assan Ceesay drive in an opening bereft of clear-cut chances.
Edin Dzeko headed narrowly wide from Calhanoglu's corner soon after, before Mkhitaryan delivered the first moment of quality for his 29th-minute opener.
The midfielder swept a right-footed finish from Nicola Barella's offload into the top-right corner after the Italy international evaded two challenges inside the area.
Martinez finished in similarly clinical fashion after 53 minutes, brushing Denzel Dumfries' low right-wing centre past Falcone to double Inter's lead.
Dzeko fired another presentable opportunity straight at Falcone and Alessandro Bastoni dragged wide as an insipid Lecce never threatened a late response.
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Defeat to Bologna last Sunday left Inzaghi and Martinez furious, with the pair warning Inter will achieve nothing with such poor performances.
The Nerazzurri responded with a dominant showing, though, as they won a ninth straight Serie A home game against Lecce, scoring 22 times in that run.
A Scudetto challenge may be off the cards but Inter can take encouragement from this display with the second leg of their Champions League round of 16 tie, which they lead 1-0, at Porto to come on March 14.
While Mkhitaryan scored in two consecutive home appearances in Serie A for the first time since May 2021 for Roma and Martinez once again impressed, Calhanoglu also deserves credit.
The Turkey midfielder was central to all of Inter's attacking promise as he created four chances – no player managed more.
Dzeko was preferred up top by Inzaghi as he replaced Romelu Lukaku in the starting XI but the Bosnia and Herzegovina international failed to take his chance.
The striker missed a great first-half opportunity to compound his miserable run in front of goal, having scored just twice in 14 appearances in 2023.
Key Opta facts
- Inter have kept the clean sheets in eight home games, a joint-high in Serie A this term.
- Martínez has scored at least 14 goals in four consecutive Serie A campaign and celebrated his 100th victory in the competition.
- Only Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (19) has delivered more assists than Barella (18) amongst Serie A midfielders over the last two seasons.
- Dumfries was involved in a goal in a Serie A home match for the first time since April 23, 2022, when he scored against Roma.
Inter visit relegation-threatened Spezia on Friday, while Lecce host Torino two days later.