Lukaku fires Inter Milan closer to Serie A summit with Napoli win

Romelu Lukaku scored via a penalty to ensure Inter Milan defeated Napoli 1-0 at San Siro on Wednesday.

Romelu Lukaku celebrates after scoring on Wednesday. - AP

A Romelu Lukaku penalty was enough to give Inter Milan a 1-0 win against 10-man Napoli at San Siro on Wednesday and move the host within a point of Serie A leader AC Milan.

MATCH CENTRE

Just one point and one place separated the two sides before kick-off, and the game was decided when David Ospina conceded a spot kick midway through the second half, which Lukaku converted.

The two captains made an impact in contrasting fashions, as Napoli skipper Lorenzo Insigne was sent off for dissent following the penalty award and Inter goalkeeper Samir Handanovic made some decisive interventions to keep his side in front.

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Yet Napoli pushed hard for an equaliser with 10 men and Andrea Petagna was denied a late leveller when his shot rattled the post in stoppage time.

The victory leaves Inter in second place, one point behind leader Milan, while Napoli is fourth with 23 points.

Five wins in a row

Pressure was mounting on Inter coach Antonio Conte after his side’s disappointing early exit from the Champions League, where it finished bottom of its group, but he has now overseen a run of five wins in a row in Serie A.

Napoli lost star striker Dries Mertens during a cagey first half, as the Belgian was worryingly forced off in tears with an ankle injury.

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The game exploded into life in the final 20 minutes. Handanovic instinctively blocked a clever Insigne flick before Inter rushed up the other end to win the decisive penalty, as Ospina caught the foot of Inter wing-back Matteo Darmian.

Insigne was furious about the decision and saw red for his reaction, but Napoli finished the stronger as Handanovic produced superb saves on Matteo Politano and Giovanni Di Lorenzo before the woodwork came to Inters rescue in the dying minutes.

Gattuso: 'These things only happen in Italy'

Napoli coach Gennaro Gattuso has complained that only in Italy would his captain Lorenzo Insigne be sent off for using vulgar language to a referee.

The Italy international forward was shown a straight red card by official Davide Massa during the second half of his sides 1-0 Serie A defeat by Inter Milan on Wednesday, after reacting angrily when a penalty was awarded to the home side.

“These things only happen in Italy,” Gattuso told Sky Italia.

“The captain of Napoli can't be sent off because he has sworn at the referee after a dubious penalty. We are playing a lot of football, a word can slip out. Only in Italy do players get sent off for these things.”

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