Inter Milan gave an emphatic sign of intent as the defending Serie A champion moved to the top of Serie A with a crushing 4-0 victory over relegation-threatened Cagliari on Sunday.
Lautaro Martínez scored and missed a penalty in the first half, and Inter ran riot after the break with goals from Alexis Sánchez, Hakan Çalhanoğlu and another from Martínez.
Inter moved a point above AC Milan after its city rival drew 1-1 at Udinese on Saturday. Napoli could have moved level with Milan but lost 1-0 at home to Empoli.
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“It’s always important to win, regardless of how other teams have done,” Inter captain and goalkeeper Samir Handanović said. “We wanted to send out a message today, to both ourselves and our opponents. We’re in good form, we’re feeling good, and we’re reaping the rewards for what we’ve done.”
The top four are separated by four points. Atalanta moved above Napoli and into third with a 2-1 win at Hellas Verona.
Cagliari remained two points from safety.
Inter broke the deadlock at San Siro in the 29th minute when Martínez headed in Çalhanoğlu’s corner.
Martínez had a chance to double Inter’s lead moments before halftime after Alessio Cragno brought down Sánchez but the Cagliari goalkeeper atoned for his error by saving the penalty and Çalhanoğlu sent the rebound over the bar.
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Inter did get its second goal five minutes after the break as a throw-in from the right was controlled by Nicolò Barella and then crossed in for Sánchez to volley into the bottom left corner.
Çalhanoğlu added a third in the 66th when he cut inside from the left and curled the ball into the bottom corner, and Martínez put Inter out of sight two minutes later. The Argentina forward controlled Barella’s ball over the top on his chest and then lifted it past Cragno with a delicate volley.
It could have been more as Sánchez hit the crossbar late on.