A wonderful Lautaro Martinez volley set Inter on their way to a 2-1 win over Hellas Verona in Serie A on Wednesday, as the Nerazzurri saw out 2020 with a seventh consecutive victory.
The Argentina international hooked in a fine finish early in the second half at the Stadio Bentegodi for his first goal in over a month, as Inter closed the gap on city rivals AC Milan at the top of the table.
Verona had drawn level through Ivan Ilic after a blunder from Inter goalkeeper Samir Handanovic gave him an easy finish, but Milan Skriniar rose highest from a corner to head the visitors ahead once more and to victory.
A tight opening period saw neither team able to take control of the match, with much of the play engaged in midfield. Ashley Young came closest for Inter early on as he met a corner that was cleared to him on the edge of the box, but could only slice wide.
At the other end, a dangerous Federico Dimarco freekick from deep just evaded the unmarked Eddie Salcedo at the back post, with Verona’s biggest threat coming from set-pieces.
The best chance of the first half fell to the hosts midway through the opening period when Dimarco cut inside and received Mattia Zaccagni’s backheeled return pass before skipping past Achraf Hakimi to bear down on goal. Only a wonderful Samir Handanovic save kept the scores level.
Inter immediately countered through a Romelu Lukaku charge up field, allowing Marcelo Brozovic to whip in a teasing cross for Martinez near the penalty spot. The striker was unable to get enough power to test Marco Silvestri though.
The Nerazzurri began to push forward as the interval approached and Lukaku showed his pace to burst into the box and cut the ball back for Martinez, with his stabbed effort forcing an acrobatic save from Silvestri.
However, Inter came flying out of the traps in the second half and broke the deadlock with just over five minutes played, as Martinez lost his marker to hook a volley in off the far post from a pinpoint Hakimi cross.
The duo linked up again as Hakimi burst forward and cut back for Martinez, but his low shot through a crowd was well held.
Despite the Nerazzurri’s dominance, Verona were level shortly after the hour mark after a goalkeeping howler. Handanovic fumbled a simple Davide Faraoni cross from the byline, dropping the ball onto the foot of the grateful Ilic to tap in and snatch an unlikely equaliser.
The scores were level for little over five minutes however, as Skriniar rose highest to power home a header from Brozovic’s delivery after a short corner to net his first league goal since February 2018.
Inter continued to push forward and Arturo Vidal slipped Lukaku in for the Belgian striker to fire in, with a timely block sending the ball inches wide.
Verona came close to a late equaliser as Dimarco’s bending freekick whistled just over the crossbar, whilst Lukaku squandered a chance to wrap victory up as he skied an effort from close range.
Victory for Inter saw the Nerazzurri extend their magnificent record against Verona to 19 matches unbeaten since 1992, as Antonio Conte’s side moved top ahead of Milan’s match against Lazio later on Wednesday.