Lautaro Martínez came off the bench to score four goals in 27 minutes and help Inter Milan win 4-0 at Salernitana in Serie A on Saturday.
Martínez has now scored nine goals in the league this season and tops the goalscoring charts just as his side tops Serie A.
“He’s having an excellent start to the season, today was his time to have a little rest but he has always consistently scored and he must continue like this,” Inter coach Simone Inzaghi said. “He has become captain and he feels even more like a leader.
“He has always worked well, he has so much experience, he has won a lot of trophies, but he is a player who has always worked well every day at the training ground.”
Inter is level on points with AC Milan, which beat Lazio 2-0 following a goal from United States standout Christian Pulisic. Napoli is third, four points behind, after winning 4-0 at Lecce.
Inter saw its perfect start to the season ended midweek with a 2-1 loss at home to Sassuolo but Inzaghi opted against starting Martínez ahead of Tuesday’s Champions League match against Benfica.
With Inter struggling to turn its domination into goals, however, Martínez was brought on in the 55th minute and broke the deadlock just seven minutes later.
Marcus Thuram got down the left and picked out Martínez with a perfect pass for the Argentine World Cup winner to dink the ball over Guillermo Ochoa and into the bottom left corner.
Mateusz Łęgowski thought he had leveled for Salernitana almost immediately but it was ruled out for offside.
Inter doubled its tally in the 77th minute. Denzel Dumfries did well to rob his defender and pass to Martínez. He immediately spread the ball for Nicolò Barella, who crossed it back in for the forward to volley home.
Martínez completed his hat trick five minutes from time with a penalty after Thuram had been brought down by Matteo Lovato.
However, Martínez wasn’t done as he fired in Carlos Augusto’s cross four minutes later.
Pulisic netted his third goal for Milan but his first in more than a month.
Milan’s pressure had been building and the hosts finally made the breakthrough on the hour mark. Tijjani Reijnders slipped the ball through to Rafael Leão and he crossed for Pulisic to fire in on the half-volley with the inside of his left boot.
Pulisic was given another standing ovation by the San Siro crowd when he was substituted late on.
Fellow American Yunus Musah almost doubled Milan’s lead in the 73rd but he was denied by a superb save by Ivan Provedel.
The Lazio goalkeeper had pulled off an equally impressive stop at the end of the first half to prevent Olivier Giroud from marking his 37th birthday with a goal. Reijnders backheeled the rebound onto the post.
Noah Okafor sealed the match two minutes from time with a simple tap-in after some great work by Leão.
Lazio thought it had pulled one back in stoppage time with a curled effort from Pedro but it was ruled out for offside.
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