STADIO GIUSEPPE MEAZZA (Milan) – Edin Dzeko’s header, arguably his most important goal since joining Inter, proved enough for the Nerazzurri to confirm leaders Napoli’s first defeat of the Serie A season. The 1-0 win means the hosts started the new year brilliantly at the Meazza.
Inter’s fifth consecutive home victory in Serie A against the Partenopei reopens the title race, as second-placed AC Milan are now just five points behind the league leaders after beating Salernitana 2-1.
The hosts were probably the better side overall in a balanced first half but couldn’t take their chances, leaving the door open for Napoli. However, the hosts struck first in the second half, with the visitors lacking their usual zip.
The Serie A leaders had opened up an 11-point gap over Inter, and the Nerazzurri knew that a victory would be the only useful result if they wanted to be back in the title race. That gap is now eight points.
Wasteful Inter passed up chances
Simone Inzaghi’s side started on the front foot and gave Napoli an early scare when Federico Dimarco was found at the back post by Romelu Lukaku only to fail to hit the target from close range in a poor miss.
Despite having more of the ball than their opponents, Napoli looked unable to put Inter’s defence to the test.
Contrastingly, the Nerazzurri’s plan to repeatedly play sudden and direct balls produced more than one threat for the visitors’ rearguard – this was the case when Dzeko controlled another cross from Lukaku to nicely set up Matteo Darmian, who blazed over the bar when he should have done better.
Dzeko forces Napoli’s first defeat
Another missed attempt from the Belgian was the last chance of the first half for a wasteful Inter, but the hosts proved adamant by continuing to pile pressure after the break, eventually finding the opener.
The Nerazzurri made up for their previous lack of precision with a well-worked move that saw Henrikh Mkhitaryan send the ball wide for Dimarco, whose pinpoint cross was emphatically headed home by Dzeko, netting his seventh Serie A goal this season.
World Cup winner Lautaro Martinez replaced Lukaku for the final 25 minutes but had little chance to make an impact, as Inter gradually backed down in order to defend the advantage, with Andre Onana making his only but decisive save on Giacomo Raspadori to seal all the three points.