Quickfire goals help Inter Milan move back to Serie A summit
Three goals in a seven-minute spell before half-time put the Nerazzurri on course for a 12th league win of the season.
Inter Milan returned to the Serie A summit with a 4-0 win over Udinese at the San Siro.
Hakan Calhanoglu, Federico Di Marco and Marcus Thruam rewarded Nerazzurri dominance in a seven-minute scoring burst before half-time.
Lautaro Martinez put the gloss on victory six minutes from time by winning possession and advancing to lash home his 14th goal of the season from 20 yards.
Udinese might have argued their plan to shackle Inter was working until Nehuen Perez pulled back Martinez and Calhanoglu converted from the penalty spot after 37 minutes.
This was Inter’s 12th win from 15 league games and again took them two points clear of Juventus, who had beaten champions Napoli on Friday.
Udinese arrived at the San Siro – scene of their only league victory this season against Milan last month – as Serie A draw specialists, with the points being shared in nine of their 14 games.
But Udinese’s cause was not helped by the absence of injured defenders Jaka Bijol and Enzo Ebosse and the writing was on the wall inside 10 minutes.
Christian Kabasele twice cut out dangerous crosses and Martinez headed Di Marco’s cross against a post.
A fine Inter move also split open the visitors as Yann Bisseck, making his first Serie A start, crossed from the byline but Di Marco lacked the power to beat the diving Marco Silvestri.
Udinese escaped their own half for the first time and Roberto Pereyra fired wide when the veteran Argentinian might have been expected to do better.
Thuram headed over and Calhanoglu drove just wide before Udinese were let down by rash defending from Perez.
Martinez was attempting to reach Di Marco’s cross but Perez guaranteed that he would not, fouling his fellow countryman to prompt a lengthy VAR check which ended with Calhanoglu sending Silvestri the wrong way for his fourth goal in five league games.
Calhanoglu was involved again as Inter doubled their lead within five minutes, the Turkish midfielder setting up Di Marco who drilled an unstoppable left-footed drive past Silvestri.
The best was still to come before the break from a flowing 21-pass Inter move.
Di Marco stepped up the urgency and an incisive pass from Henrikh Mkhitaryan gave Thuram a simple tap-in for his seventh goal of the campaign.
Inter’s intensity dropped after the break and Udinese went close when goalkeeper Yann Sommer failed to hold substitute Sandi Lovric’s shot from the edge of the area.
Lorenzo Lucca dispatched the rebound but the on-loan striker was standing in an offside position and the final word belonged to Serie A top scorer Martinez.