Serie A: Inter closes gap on leading pair despite second-half slump

Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez put Inter 2-0 ahead but Sampdoria pulled one back through Morten Thorsby and finished the match threatening an equaliser.

Inter, with 57 points from 26 games, is five behind Lazio and six adrift of leader Juventus.   -  TWITTER (Kwadwo Asamoah)

Third-placed Inter Milan restarted its Serie A campaign with a 2-1 home win over struggling Sampdoria on Sunday to close the gap on the leading pair, although it lived dangerously in the second half.

Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez put Inter 2-0 ahead in just over half an hour but Sampdoria, outclassed in the first period, pulled one back through Morten Thorsby early in the second and finished the match threatening an equaliser.

Belgian Lukaku celebrated his goal by taking a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

ALSO READ| Premier League: Pulisic, Giroud goals give Chelsea win over Aston Villa

Inter, with 57 points from 26 games, is five behind Lazio and six adrift of leader Juventus while Claudio Ranieri's Samp is 16th with 26, one point clear of the drop zone.

The match was originally due to be played on Feb. 23 and was one of the first to be called off as the new coronavirus began to spread through Italy, with Serie A eventually being suspended on March 9.

“We could have settled it earlier by making more of our chances, but instead we conceded at the first Sampdoria chance attempt and got a little anxious. But it was still a good performance,” said Inter coach Antonio Conte.

ALSO READ| Premier League: Leader Liverpool held at Everton in goalless derby

The hosts went ahead in the 10th minute with a flowing move as Martinez flicked the ball to Lukaku who played a one-two with Christian Eriksen and drove the ball past goalkeeper Emil Audero.

Inter was in complete control, barely allowing a disappointing Samp to get out of its own half, and doubled the lead with another neatly worked goal.

Lukaku slipped the ball between two defenders to Antonio Candreva who rolled it across for Martinez to score from close range as the Argentine striker ended a run of six matches without a goal in all competitions.

ALSO READ|Remembering my Chuni da

But Thorsby's goal seven minutes after the restart changed the game completely and an edgy Inter suffered frights as Nicola Murru fired over from long-range and substitute Mehdi Leris tested keeper Samir Handanovic with a free kick.

“We helped them because we were timid and fearful,” said Ranieri. “We didn't go out of our half much and when we did, we did it badly.... At least we showed some character in the second half.”

-Atalanta thumps Sassuolo-

Free-scoring Atalanta continued where it had left off before the novel coronavirus stoppage by thumping Sassuolo 4-1 in Serie A on Sunday as football returned to Bergamo, one of the Italian cities worst hit by the pandemic.

Duvan Zapata netted twice as the Serie A top scorer took its tally to 74 goals in 26 games while Sassuolo's Mehdi Bourabia scored at both ends with a bizarre own goal and a late consolation from a free kick.

Atalanta stayed fourth with 51 points having had its coach Gian Piero Gasperini sent off for dissent in the second half.

  Dugout videos