MILAN - Inter made light work of Spezia on Wednesday evening thanks to goals in each half by Roberto Gagliardini and Lautaro Martinez to close the gap at the top of the table.
There were plenty of familiar faces in the opposition set-up, with coach Thiago Motta one of the heroes in Inter’s all-conquering 2010 team, while the young duo up front of Rey Manaj and Eddie Salcedo both came through the Nerazzurri youth set-up. Inter, however, made sure a joyous return to San Siro was never on the cards.
Stefan de Vrij, Aleksandar Kolarov and Matteo Darmian were joined by Alessandro Bastoni on the sidelines, but Inter’s strength in depth showed with the players who came in performing admirably throughout. The Nerazzurri racked up 14 efforts on goal in the first half alone, which is a season-high so far. Joaquin Correa and Lautaro went very close to finding the net in the opening half an hour with efforts from the edge of the box, while Denzel Dumfries saw his left-footed drive get palmed away by Ivan Provedel as the hosts piled on the pressure.
Simone Inzaghi’s charges were in control throughout and the victory looked inevitable from the get-go, but it wasn’t until the 36th minute that the deadlock was broken after a stunning team move that ripped through the Spezia defence. Danilo D’Ambrosio’s pass was flicked on by Lautaro straight into the path of Gagliardini who hit a first-time effort into the corner. The midfielder has a knack of scoring against teams from Liguria, with eight of his 15 Serie A goals coming against Genoa, Sampdoria and Spezia.
Samir Handanovic was called into action as the first half drew to a close to brilliantly claw away Kelvin Amian’s goal-bound header and ensure Inter’s 1-0 lead remained intact.
The only possible criticism of the team’s first-half display was the failure to seal the win before the interval, but that was soon addressed in the early stages of the second half. Tucu Correa dribbled through the Spezia defence before unleashing a rasping drive that crashed against the underside of the bar and came out before Hakan Calhanoglu stung Provedel’s gloves once again at the end of a sublime Inter move.
The goal was coming and eventually materialised from the penalty spot after a handball by Spezia’s Jakub Kiwior to block a Lautaro shot. The Argentine calmly stepped up to put the game to bed with 58 minutes on the clock and find the net for the third league game in a row.
Further gloss could’ve been added to the scoreline in the final stages, but Calhanoglu, Ivan Perisic, Gagliardini and Federico Dimarco all saw chances go begging. Handanovic did have two further involvements in the game in the final ten minutes to put paid to any Spezia hopes of a comeback and make sure of his clean sheet.
Inter can feel relieved about a routine victory that shows this team can win even after making considerable changes to the line-up, racking up a clean sheet in the process to continue the positive run of form heading into the trip to the Olimpico to face Roma on Saturday.
INTER 2-0 SPEZIA (HT: 1-0)
Scorers: Gagliardini 36, Lautaro (pen) 58.
INTER (3-5-2): 1 Handanovic; 33 D'Ambrosio, 37 Skriniar, 32 Dimarco; 2 Dumfries, 5 Gagliardini (22 Vidal, 87), 77 Brozovic (8 Vecino, 87), 20 Calhanoglu (12 Sensi, 69), 14 Perisic; 10 Lautaro (9 Dzeko, 73), 19 Correa (7 Sanchez, 73).
Subs not used: 21 Cordaz, 97 Radu, 23 Barella, 43 Cortinovis, 46 Zanotti, 47 Carboni, 48 Satriano.
Coach: Simone Inzaghi.
SPEZIA (5-3-2): 94 Provedel; 27 Amian (21 Ferrer, 69), 28 Erlic, 15 Hristov, 14 Kiwior, 13 Reca; 8 Kovalenko (25 Maggiore, 64), 7 Sala (6 Bourabia, 64), 11 Gyasi; 29 Salcedo (10 Verde, 69), 9 Manaj.
Subs not used: 1 Zoet, 40 Zovko, 18 Nzola, 19 Colley, 20 Bastoni, 22 Antiste, 43 Nikolaou, 44 Strelec.
Coach: Thiago Motta.
Booked: Manaj, Lautaro, Kiwior.
Added time: 1+3 minutes.
Assistants: Marchi, Macaddino.
Fourth official: Paterna.
Assistant VAR: Mondin.