Inter left no hope to Benevento, who were beaten 4-0 at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on Saturday night in a match that saw the Nerazzurri dominate their opponents from beginning to end.
A Riccardo Improta own goal in the opening minutes and goals from Lautaro Martinez and Romelu Lukaku in the second half meant that the hosts replied to AC Milan and Juventus’ victories earlier in the day, keeping Serie A the title race very much alive.
With their Coppa Italia semi-final first-leg against Juventus scheduled in three days, Antonio Conte, who was not on the bench due to a two-game ban, made some significant tweaks to his usual starting XI, with the likes of Andrea Ranocchia and Christian Eriksen replacing regular starters Stefan De Vrij and Marcelo Brozovic, respectively.
In the opposite dugout, Pippo Inzaghi’s choice to deploy Improta as a left-back in a five-man defence paved the way for the hosts’ early advantage – in fact, it was Improta himself who fouled Achraf Hakimi on the right flank before clumsily deflecting Eriksen’s resulting freekick into his own net.
Ranocchia took a risk shortly after, as his challenge on Gianluca Lapadula saw the Benevento’s striker fall inside the box, although the referee ignored the visitors’ protests.
Despite being one goal down Benevento maintained a brave approach in an attempt to surprise an unbalanced Inter side through quick counter-attacks and make the most of their pacy strikers.
However, such spaces left between the lines could have cost dearly, but Lautaro Martinez’s poor finishing, a constant in his last few appearances, frustrated all Inter’s efforts as he wasted two promising chances in the closing minutes of the first half, with Nicolo Barella and Hakimi seeing their smart through-balls wasted.
A convincing display was not enough to keep the hosts safe until that point, forcing the Nerazzurri to continue their pursuit of a second, which was ruled out due to offside moments after the break – Eriksen’s deflected shot from outside the box bounced off the crossbar, but Lautaro was beyond every defender when he fired home the rebound.
The hosts’ pressure eventually paid off, courtesy of a precise precise left-footed attempt from Lautaro, as the Argentine was quick to pounce onto a loose ball following a lucky rebound and thus double Inter’s lead.
The Nerazzurri had a goal by Hakimi ruled out, just seconds before Romelu Lukaku recovered his good old habits by adding a third after Lautaro had intercepted a calamitous attempt from the visitors to build from the back, meaning that both Inter strikers put an end to their Serie A goal-drought, both scoring in the same game for the first time since their side’s 6-2 victory against Crotone on January 3.
However, after taking the spotlight for all the wrong reasons in the heated Coppa Italia quarter-final against Milan, Lukaku didn’t settle for one goal, making the most of a brilliant assist from substitute Alexis Sanchez to round off the scoring.