Inter close gap on leading pair despite second-half slump

Reuters

MILAN (Reuters) - Third-placed Inter Milan restarted their Serie A campaign with a 2-1 home win over struggling Sampdoria on Sunday to close the gap on the leading pair, although they lived dangerously in the second half.

Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez put Inter 2-0 ahead in just over half an hour but Sampdoria, outclassed in the first period, pulled one back through Morten Thorsby early in the second and finished the match threatening an equaliser.

Belgian Lukaku celebrated his goal by taking a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

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Inter, with 57 points from 26 games, are five behind Lazio and six adrift of leaders Juventus while Claudio Ranieri's Samp are 16th with 26, one point clear of the drop zone.

The match was originally due to be played on Feb. 23 and was one of the first to be called off as the new coronavirus began to spread through Italy, with Serie A eventually being suspended on March 9.

"We could have settled it earlier by making more of our chances, but instead we conceded at the first Sampdoria chance attempt and got a little anxious. But it was still a good performance," said Inter coach Antonio Conte.

The hosts went ahead in the 10th minute with a flowing move as Martinez flicked the ball to Lukaku who played a one-two with Christian Eriksen and drove the ball past goalkeeper Emil Audero.

Inter were in complete control, barely allowing a disappointing Samp to get out of their own half, and doubled the lead with another neatly worked goal.

Lukaku slipped the ball between two defenders to Antonio Candreva who rolled it across for Martinez to score from close range as the Argentine striker ended a run of six matches without a goal in all competitions.

But Thorsby's goal seven minutes after the restart changed the game completely and an edgy Inter suffered frights as Nicola Murru fired over from long-range and substitute Mehdi Leris tested keeper Samir Handanovic with a free kick.

"We helped them because we were timid and fearful," said Ranieri. "We didn't go out of our half much and when we did, we did it badly.... At least we showed some character in the second half."


(Writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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