MILAN – Inspirational. It was an unforgettable night, which brought together old and new. Gianluca Pagliuca, Marco Materazzi, Wesley Sneijder, Samuel Eto'o and the son of Peppino Prisco took to the pitch to celebrate their entrance into the Inter Hall of Fame, setting the crowd alight. Past and present, then and now: the history of Inter brought positive vibes to a team on the hunt for huge success. They wanted goals, great passages of play and cheers from the stands. It had it all: three points, five goals, belief, gameplay. Lautaro Martinez ended his goal drought in dramatic fashion with a hat-trick and Edin Dzeko sealed the victory with a fantastic brace to give the Nerazzurri a convincing 5-0 win.
Filippo Inzaghi’s side went largely unchanged from their draw against Milan earlier in the week, but Matteo Darmian came in to replace Ivan Perisic on the left-wing, as he was ruled out with a slight muscle strain. Dzeko and Lautaro were charged upfront with making life difficult for the visiting defenders. Davide Nicola’s team adopted a 4-4-2 formation, as they had done in the four consecutive draws leading up to this game. This string of results has left their chances of survival looking more desperate, but many Salernitana fans made the trip to San Siro. The game was not a foregone conclusion, however, and that much was clear from the first minutes. It was a fast-paced opening, with Inter trying to control the match from the outset and Salernitana having some early chances.
In the fourth minute, Milan Djuric raced into space and laid it off for Simone Verdi, who was waiting in the box. The Salernitana number ten couldn’t capitalise, as he sent the ball flying over the bar. Inter got the message and were careful not to allow them any more room. Nicola’s players did well and weren’t afraid to run into space. On high alert and desperate to score, Inter hoped to break the spell that had for so long loomed over striker Lautaro, leaving him goalless since December. In the tenth minute, “il Toro” had his first opportunity, but Luigi Sepe was equal to it. He then went on to clatter the crossbar with a left-footed shot, thanks to a brilliant set-up by Nicolo Barella.
It was this link-up play between Barella and Lautaro that proved decisive: Salernitana couldn’t get to grips with the Italian midfielder as he sent balls in from deep and made piercing runs. Barella dominated and pulled the strings, while Lautaro offered the perfect outlet for his passes. It was on 22 minutes that the Argentinian finally overcame his goal drought, paving the way for the perfect game ahead. He ran on to Barella’s ball in the box and slipped it past Sepe. Inter had been waiting 425 minutes for him to find the net, after his last goal came in the reverse fixture against Salernitana in December.
With the deadlock broken, there was still time for Verdi to threaten, but the Nerazzurri then started to dominate play. On 27 minutes, Sepe blocked another effort from Lautaro, but he could do nothing to stop him getting his second on 40 minutes. The Argentine did brilliantly, receiving the ball again from Barella and slotting it home with his left foot in the box.
Inter went in at half-time with a two-goal advantage, allowing them to come out in the second half full of confidence, knowing who was in charge of the game. Salernitana tried to rally but they didn’t have the strength to open up the game. There was barely time to try, because Inzaghi’s team were rampant, scoring three goals in 13 minutes. Lautaro got his third on 56 minutes, celebrating with the fans. It was his second hat-trick for Inter, with the first against Crotone in 2021. It was a wonderful goal, as he managed to get in front of the defender to meet Dzeko’s cross.
And it was Dzeko who could celebrate next, after all his marvellous supporting play. He got his reward on 64 and 69 minutes, scoring a brace to secure a 5-0 victory for his team. For the first, he managed to beat the defender to Robin Gosens’ excellent cross. It was the German’s first Serie A game, after making his debut in the Coppa Italia derby earlier in the week. On 69 minutes, Dzeko made the most of a ball by Denzel Dumfries, who was also fantastic on the right-wing, to put the game to bed.
It was a real party for the Nerazzurri. There were no final gifts of more goals, despite the efforts of Joaquin Correa, Lautaro, Dumfries and Gosens, who all went close in the latter stages. This 5-0 victory takes Inter top of the league for the moment, until Napoli and Milan face each other on Sunday. But, now, thoughts turn to the away match against Liverpool.
INTER 5-0 SALERNITANA (HT: 2-0)
Scorers: Lautaro 22, 40, 56, Dzeko 64, 69
INTER (3-5-2): 1 Handanovic; 37 Skriniar, 6 De Vrij (13 Ranocchia, 62), 95 Bastoni; 2 Dumfries, 23 Barella, 77 Brozovic (5 Gagliardini, 71), 20 Calhanoglu (22 Vidal, 62), 36 Darmian (18 Gosens, 62); 9 Dzeko (19 Correa, 74), 10 Lautaro.
Subs not used: 21 Cordaz, 97 Radu, 7 Sanchez, 8 Vecino, 32 Dimarco, 33 D'Ambrosio, 88 Caicedo.
Coach: Simone Inzaghi.
SALERNITANA (4-4-2): 55 Sepe; 30 Mazzocchi (22 Obi, 71), 25 Dragusin, 17 Fazio, 19 Ranieri; 20 Kastanos (3 Ruggeri, 83), 18 L. Coulibaly, 13 Ederson (16 Radovanovic, 71), 10 Verdi (21 Zortea, 60); 99 Mousset (88 Perotti, 60), 11 Djuric.
Subs not used: 72 Belec, 5 Veseli, 9 Bonazzoli, 15 Bohinen, 23 Gyomber, 31 Gagliolo, 87 Filipe.
Coach: Davide Nicola.
Booked: Darmian, Mousset, De Vrij
Time added on: 1, 0
Assistants: Tolfo, Paganessi.
Fourth official: Marchetti.
Assistant VAR: Passeri.