A near-empty Stadio Meazza played host to what felt like nothing more than a training match as Inter booked their place in the quarter-finals of the Coppa Italia with a relatively comfortable 6-2 win over Benevento.
The recent racist abuse aimed at Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly meant that this round-of-16 game was played behind – mostly – closed doors, though there were some in attendance who braved the near 800-kilometre trip north from Campania.
Whatever slim hopes the Serie B side had before the game looked even more unlikely when Mauro Icardi converted a second-minute penalty after Antonio Candreva was deemed to have been fouled.
Candreva then grabbed a goal for himself with a low, driven finish as a corner into the box fell loose at his feet.
It looked as though the Witches of the South were going to go in at the break just the two goals behind, but Dalbert made it three right on half time with an excellent and emphatic finish at Lorenzo Montipo’s near post.
Lautaro Martinez leapt to nod home Inter’s fourth before Benevento ever got started in the second half and grabbed his second after Roberto Insigne curled home a free-kick for the visitors.
Filippo Bandinelli headed in a second for Cristian Bucchi’side, much to the delight of the travelling support but it was Candreva who had the final say, bagging a sixth on the final whistle.
A successful session for experimental Spalletti
Luciano Spalletti trialled both Lautaro and compatriot Mauro Icardi in attack as the Nerazzurri lined up in a 4-4-2 formation from kick off.
The pair looked exciting, particularly when Lautaro was in possession, and Icardi’s movement meant he always had a passing option available, with space opening for Candreva and Ivan Perisic to run into as well.
Candreva is the player who appeared to benefit most from the decision to play with four across the middle and he thrived in a slightly deeper role. With more of the pitch in front of him, he was able to seek the runs of the Argentine pair up top and also switch the play to an often unattended Ivan Perisic, who had little joy on the left.
Icardi was withdrawn at the break for Matteo Politano, which saw Inter revert to their tried-and-tested 4-2-3-1 setup, using Lautaro as the lone forward.
The Argentine didn’t take long to capitalise in his new role, scoring just moments after the restart.
From then, though, Inter looked more rigid but less organised than they had in the first half, with Benevento enjoying a period of dominance that saw them try shots from range and even pull a goal back through Insigne.
Lautaro offers options
The 21-year-old looked just as lively as a lone striker as he did an accomplice to Icardi.
Naturally, when partnering the No.9 he was inclined to drop a little deeper in search of possession but the two swapped sides frequently and kept the Benevento defence on their toes.
Then fulfilling the striking duties by himself, he was less mobile but still showed a desire to run the channels and get beyond the shoulder of the defence when he could, while also fighting back to help his midfielders.
He may not have the creativity to occupy the No.10 role that Inter so badly need to be filled, but when playing alongside Icardi he can be the perfect support striker for the Biscione captain.