Inter are closing the gap


Hakan Calhanoglu thrashed home a powerful first-half strike and Lautaro Martinez converted a penalty with the last kick of the game for champions Inter Milan to beat Venezia 2-0 on Saturday and close the gap on the top two teams in Serie A.

Third-placed Inter are now one point behind joint leaders Napoli and AC Milan, who both have home matches on Sunday where they can restore their four-point advantage.

Inter dominated early against their hosts, who are back in the top flight of Italian football after an absence of almost two decades, but in the end, were hanging on for the full haul of points.

Calhanoglu had a good free-kick opportunity inside the opening 20 minutes but skied his effort, after which Edin Dzeko pressed for the opener as he kept the home defence busy.

But it was not until the 34th minute that Inter made the breakthrough after quick passing on the edge of the Venezia area set up Calhanoglu for a powerful low shot into the net.

Venezia’s Antonio Vacca tested Inter goalkeeper Samir Handanovic in the 39th minute with a long-range shot that he acrobatically tipped over the top and, after the break, they had another good chance when substitute Tanner Tessman made space for himself but then blasted his shot well over the Inter goal.

Inter looked nervy in the closing stages as Venezia pressed for an equaliser although Federico Dimarco and Dzeko both had late efforts well stopped by home goalkeeper Sergio Romero.

But Inter were awarded a spot-kick after a VAR check deep in stoppage time for handball against Ridgeciano Haps, which Martinez converted.

Defeat left Venezia still in 15th place and ended a run of successive wins.

Juventus are sliding downward

Juventus suffered another setback as they lost 1-0 at home to Atalanta after a Duvan Zapata goal on Saturday, with a fifth defeat in 14 Serie A games leaving them in eighth place.

USMNT’s Weston McKennie also limped off the pitch just after the hour mark with an injury.

The hosts struggled to create any openings of note in the first half, with their defending not up to the required standard either as they left Zapata free to fire home in the 28th minute.

Juve failed to offer much of a response in pursuit of an equaliser, with Paulo Dybala’s late free-kick that clipped the crossbar as close as they came to a leveller.

Atalanta held on in relative comfort and stretched their unbeaten run to eight games in all competitions to stay fourth on 28 points, four points behind leaders Napoli and seven points ahead of Juve who are 11 points off the pace.

The victory was Atalanta’s first at Juventus since 1989.

“Atalanta did little in front of goal. The only shot was made by Zapata on our mistake,” Juve coach Massimiliano Allegri told DAZN.

“When you don’t score things get very nervous. The only thing that we have to do is work, as we have always done, and try to win a game.”

Juve came into the match after their heaviest defeat in all competitions since 2004 on Tuesday – a 4-0 Champions League loss at Chelsea – and that result looked like it left a mark given their limp first-half display against industrious Atalanta.

After the hosts gave the ball away once more, a simple Berat Djimsiti pass cut through the Juve backline all too easily, with Zapata scoring for the seventh successive game in all competitions for Atalanta with an emphatic finish.

“So many times recently we conceded in the closing stages so this is a big step forward for us to win and keep a clean sheet in a fixture like this,” Zapata told DAZN.

“It is a tough league. There are many different types of games. It was important we kept a clean sheet against a strong side like Juve and Atalanta hadn’t won here in Serie A for many years.”

Captain Dybala had Juve’s best chance of the first half but slotted wide from a good position on the edge of the penalty area.

After the break, Atalanta seemed content to sit back on their lead, with Juventus still struggling to make any inroads.

McKennie looked to have worked himself into position for the equalizer but was denied by a last-ditch block, while substitute Federico Bernardeschi fired wide.

The home side did up the ante late on with Dybala thinking he had snatched a late point, but the ball clipped the bar and went over as the groans went around the Juventus Stadium again.


Courtesy: Reuters

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