Lautaro and Lukaku shine again as Inter beat Atalanta to secure Serie A top-four finish

Inter will be in the Champions League next season regardless of their final against Manchester City, thanks to a Serie A victory over Atalanta which saw Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez shine.

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STADIO GIUSEPPE MEAZZA (Milano): It was yet another show of strength that allowed Inter to secure a spot in the Serie A top-four by beating a helpless Atalanta side 3-2. It means that they’ll play Champions League football next season regardless of the outcome of their upcoming final against Manchester City in Istanbul on June 10.

The Nerazzurri were fired into a two-goal lead with four minutes on the clock by Romelu Lukaku and Nicolò Barella, and Mario Pasalic’s goal before the half-time break was not much more than a fleeting moment in a game that the hosts dominated for long stretches. Inter added a third through Lautaro Martinez in the second half, before Luis Muriel fired a shot towards the top corner in stoppage time which rebounded in off of Andre Onana for an own goal, staging a slightly nervy end.

Although Inter only needed a draw to secure a top-four finish, Simone Inzaghi’s choice to opt for his strongest starting XI, except for Danilo D’Ambrosio, further underlined that he didn’t want his side to settle for anything less than all three points, especially knowing how distractions have already led them to drop many points this season.

Inter’s Nicolo Barella celebrates. [@Inter_en]

Atalanta overwhelmed as Inter started strongly

The coach must have passed the message in a clear and loud voice in the dressing room, as his side took the match by storm and were ahead after as few as 40 seconds, when Lukaku received a direct ball and laid it off to Martinez, immediately sprinting to complete the one-two and clinically rounding Marco Sportiello to put the ball into an empty net.

With the Curva Nord silent in the opening minutes, in another sign of protest for the Istanbul tickets’ sale process, fans from other sections started to chant, creating an engaging atmosphere that had the effect of instantly inspiring Inter’s second. It came when Barella volleyed home a rebound after two Sportiello saves to double the Nerazzurri’s lead.

Atalanta looked simply shocked by such a start and things could have been even worse for them had Hakan Calhanoglu not been offside when he blazed home a third.

Although the chances stopped coming thick and fast, the hosts didn’t loosen their combative approach and a meek attempt on goal from Rasmus Hojlund was all that a visibly discouraged Atalanta side could muster in the first 30 minutes of the game.

However, Onana’s second save of the night, forced by Teun Koopmeiners shortly after, was the spark the visitors needed to get back into the game, as Mario Pasalic made the most of the resulting corner to pounce on a loose ball and pull one back for his side.

Inter’s Alessandro Bastoni dribbling against Atalanta. [@Inter_en]

Lautaro adds a third for dominant Inter

The Lautaro-Lukaku partnership almost caused havoc again for Atalanta’s defence as the second half began in the pouring rain, with Inter looking eager to restore their two-goal lead.

Hakan Calhanoglu tested Sportiello’s gloves again from distance, leading Gian Piero Gasperini to bring in Ademola Lookman on the hour-mark in the hope of turning the tide by putting more pressure on the hosts’ rearguard.

However, not even Luis Muriel’s entrance was enough to intimidate a confident Inter that controlled with composure and looked threatening in every single break. The match was eventually wrapped up when Lukaku impressively shielded another ball and played a brilliant through-ball that put Marcelo Brozovic one-on-one against Sportiello, giving the Croat the chance to slide it to his left for Lautaro who effortlessly bagged his 21st Serie A goal of the season.

With an almost packed Stadio Giuseppe Meazza bursting into wild celebrations, turning on their phones’ lights to create a special atmosphere, there was still time for late action as Luis Muriel fired a rocket from outside the box that hit the crossbar and bounced off Onana’s back for Atalanta’s second.

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