Denzel Dumfries fires unstoppable Inter Milan


Denzel Dumfries scored his second goal in two games to send Internazionale seven points clear on top of Serie A with a 1-0 win over Torino on Wednesday, stretching the champions’ winning league run to seven matches.

Simone Inzaghi’s side were already guaranteed to go into the mid-season break as ‘winter champions’, the name given to the league leaders at the halfway stage of the season, and moved up to 46 points, seven clear of AC Milan and Napoli.

It was Inter’s 32nd league win of 2021, a total only eclipsed once before in a calendar year in Serie A, by Juventus in 2016 with 33.

“It was an important win; we knew that Torino are a difficult team to face. We did well with our preparation over the last few days, we knew about their ferocious pressing and that they would try to disrupt our game,” Inzaghi told DAZN.

“We played a great match and barely risked anything. We are very satisfied with how we have ended the year.”

Netherlands international Dumfries struck after 30 minutes, coolly finishing off a counter-attack that started on the edge of the Inter box.

Torino put up a strong challenge but could not find a way through against an Inter side that kept a sixth consecutive league clean sheet.

The visitors’ four-match unbeaten run came to an end, leaving them 11th with 25 points.

Inter hit a formidable run of league form after the November international break, winning all seven of their matches by an aggregate score of 20-2.

They were not at their swashbuckling best against Ivan Juric’s well-drilled side, but Dumfries slotted a low finish into the bottom corner to complete a quick counter after half an hour.

The goal made Inter the second team in the last 50 years to score at least 49 goals in their first 19 games of a Serie A season, after Atalanta in 2019-20.

Inter captain Samir Handanovic made a sharp save to stop a Sasa Lukic free-kick, but it was substituted Alexis Sanchez who came closest to the second goal with a shot that clipped the outside of the post.

Kessie strikes twice as AC Milan beat Empoli

AC Milan midfielder Franck Kessie played a starring role by scoring twice in a 4-2 win over Empoli on Wednesday, leaving the Rossoneri second in Serie A at the midway stage of the season.

The Ivory Coast international was deployed in a more advanced attacking midfield position and excelled in the role by striking twice before half-time, either side of Nedim Bajrami’s goal for Empoli.

An Alessandro Florenzi free-kick and a Theo Hernandez goal extended the visitors’ lead before Andrea Pinamonti pulled one back for the hosts from the penalty spot.

“Getting back to winning was what counted today. We needed it for the league table and for our confidence,” Stefano Pioli told Sky Italia.

Milan go into a two-week winter break in second place with 42 points, four behind leaders Internazionale.

A shock 1-0 defeat for Napoli at home to relegation battling Spezia means the third-placed Neapolitans are now three points behind the Rossoneri.

“We are showing that we are competitive again, but the final step is always the most difficult one,” Pioli added.

Milan’s recent dip in form coincided with a growing injury list, and star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic was the latest player to be sidelined ahead of their trip to Tuscany.

But Kessie put in an impressive performance playing behind striker Olivier Giroud and opened the scoring by meeting a lay-off from the French striker to fire in after 12 minutes.

Empoli drew level six minutes later when Bajrami drilled a shot into the far bottom corner before Kessie notched his second of by firing through the goalkeeper’s legs.

It was the 25-year-old’s 13th league goal of 2021, the most a Milan midfielder has scored in a calendar year since Brazilian great Kaka netted 15 in 2008.

Patrick Cutrone smashed a shot off the bar for the hosts, but Florenzi’s free-kick found the bottom corner to create a two-goal cushion after 63 minutes.

Hernandez soon smashed in Milan’s fourth from six yards to put the game to bed, before Pinamonti pulled one back from the spot.

Milan’s evening was made even better by the result in Naples, where a Juan Jesus own goal gave relegation battling Spezia a surprise 1-0 win over Napoli.

The hosts had two goals disallowed and hit the bar late on as they lost a third consecutive home league match.

Thiago Motta’s side were winless in six league games heading into Wednesday’s clash but became the first team to win a Serie A match without having a shot on target since statisticians Opta began collecting data in 2004-05.

Lazio beat Venezia to end 2021 with a new club record

Lazio concluded the best calendar year in their Serie A history by beating Venezia 3-1 on Wednesday to remain in the hunt for European qualification.

It was the Roman side’s 24th league win of 2021, a new club record for a calendar year, and left them in eighth place ahead of the winter break on 31 points, three behind fifth-placed Juventus.

Pedro Rodriguez put Maurizio Sarri’s side ahead with a weaving run and finish before Francesco Forte headed 16th-placed Venezia level before halftime.

Francesco Acerbi restored Lazio’s lead early in the second half and substitute Luis Alberto volleyed home a third at the death, shortly after Venezia replacement Tanner Tessman was sent off.

Elsewhere, Bologna climbed above Sassuolo into 10th place with a 3-0 win.

Riccardo Orsolini and Aaron Hickey produced explosive first half finishes before Federico Santander added a late third for the visitors.

Spezia stun Napoli

Third-place Napoli dropped seven points behind Serie A leaders Inter after losing 1-0 at home to relegation-threatened Spezia, who benefited from an own-goal from Napoli defender Juan Jesus.

Napoli were missing captain Lorenzo Insigne, who tested positive for Covid-19, while Spezia did not produce a single shot on goal.


Courtesy: Reuters and Sky Sports

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