MILAN (AP) — Romelu Lukaku scored one goal and set up another as Inter Milan moved a step closer to its first Serie A title in more than a decade with a 2-1 win over Sassuolo on Wednesday.
Lukaku headed in the opener in the 10th minute and provided the assist for Lautaro Martínez in the 67th as Inter moved 11 points clear of second-place AC Milan with its 10th successive victory.
“Lukaku and Lautaro have been working for so long together, they know what positions they have to keep now,” Inter coach Antonio Conte said. “They do so very well, they always move in synchrony.”
It was Lukaku’s 21st league goal of the season but he remained four behind Cristiano Ronaldo in the scoring charts as the Juventus forward also netted in his side’s 2-1 win over Napoli in another rearranged match.
Lukaku joined Inter from Manchester United in 2019 for around 80 million euros (then $90 million).
“You can see the work that’s been done with Romelu,” Conte said. “I haven’t forgotten how so many people turned up their nose at his arrival, talking about an overvalued player.
“But right from the start I said that he had arrived here with his potential and with hard work he could do something extraordinary. He has made exceptional improvements and can do still more.”
Juventus moved into third. The nine-time defending champion is 12 points behind Inter, which hasn’t won the league title since 2010.
“Nine matches remain, and every win now is worth six points to us,” Conte said. “Every time we win, it’s another big step forward, and not just in terms of our league position: it also weighs heavily on those who are pursuing us.”
The match between Inter and Sassuolo was meant to be played just before the international break but was postponed following a coronavirus outbreak in the Nerazzurri camp.
Inter took an early lead when Ashley Young whipped in a cross from the left for Lukaku’s flicked header into the far corner. It was the Inter forward’s first headed goal this season.
Sassuolo dominated possession as Inter focused on defending and attempting to score on the counter.
It did so in the second half when Lukaku’s through ball released Martínez in the middle and he drilled into the bottom right corner.
Hamed Traorè set up a nervy finale for Inter when he pulled one back for Sassuolo five minutes from time, curling into the far corner after the Nerazzurri failed to clear the ball.
Paulo Dybala scored just four minutes after making his return from injury to help Juventus earn a first win in three league matches.
Dybala had been sidelined with a knee injury for more than two months but he was brought on as a substitute in the 69th and made it 2-0 shortly after, controlling a pass from Rodrigo Bentancur just inside the area before turning and firing into the far corner.
The Bianconeri had taken the lead in the 13th minute after Federico Chiesa beat two defenders on the right before crossing for Ronaldo to slot into the bottom left corner.
Lorenzo Insigne converted a last-minute penalty for Napoli after Juventus defender Giorgio Chiellini brought down Victor Osimhen.
Napoli remained fifth, two points below fourth-place Atalanta and three below Juventus.
The match was meant to be played in October and caused much debate when Napoli did not travel to Turin after two of its players tested positive for the virus.
Napoli was handed a 3-0 loss by the Italian league and docked one point but eventually had that overturned on appeal by the Italian Olympic Committee.
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