ROME: Even without Romelu Lukaku and Antonio Conte, Inter Milan seems intent on successfully defending their Serie A title.
The Nerazzurri completely overwhelmed visiting Bologna 6-1 on Saturday to extend their unbeaten start to the league season.
Substitute Edin Dzeko scored two late goals after Lautaro Martinez, Milan Skriniar, Nicolo Barella and Matias Vecino gave the hosts a four-goal cushion.
Arthur Theate pulled one back for Bologna four minutes from time.
The victory provided some welcome relief following two frustrating performances for Inter: A draw at Sampdoria last weekend and a loss at home to Real Madrid in the Champions League.
Inter moved atop the standings, one point above AS Roma, AC Milan, Napoli which are yet to play this weekend and Fiorentina, who won at Genoa 2-1 earlier.
There had been concern about Inter’s status after Conte surprisingly left the team in May shortly after leading the club to its first Serie A title in more than a decade.
Conte was openly concerned about the finances of Inter’s Chinese owners and his lack of input in the transfer market, and his worries were confirmed when Lukaku was sold to Chelsea in August for a reported $135 million, a record transfer fee for the European champions.
Lukaku scored 64 goals in 95 matches across all competitions in his two seasons at Inter.
But under new coach Simone Inzaghi, Inter have had no trouble so far making up for losing Lukaku’s goals.
With 15 goals scored in four matches, Inter have the most productive attack in the league.
“I feared this game, because after Wednesday against Real Madrid where we deserved more, there was some concern. Fortunately, we had the right approach from the start,” Inzaghi said.
Martinez started things off against Bologna by redirecting a cross from Denzel Dumfries six minutes in at the San Siro for his fourth goal in as many matches.
Skriniar then rose uncontested to meet a corner with an on-target header on the half-hour mark and Barella concluded another devastating counterattack four minutes later.
After the break, Vecino scored with a tap-in then Dzeko scored through the goalkeeper’s legs for his first and fired in from a sharp angle for his second.
With three straight wins, Fiorentina seem transformed under new coach Vincenzo Italiano.
Riccardo Saponara’s beautifully struck opener on the hour and a Giacomo Bonaventura goal a minute from the end were enough for Fiorentina to run out winners for the third match in a row.
They host Inter on Tuesday in what promises to be an intriguing match against two well-balanced teams defying pre-season expectations.
Genoa, who pulled one back from the spot deep in stoppage time through Domenico Criscito, sit 14th with three points after their third defeat of the season.
Italiano was a late hire after Gennaro Gattuso left Fiorentina in June, barely three weeks after taking charge of the club, due to disagreements over the transfer market.
Duvan Zapata fired Atalanta to a hard-fought 1-0 win at Salernitana, who gave former France forward Franck Ribery his first start of the season.
Colombian Zapata used all his strength and poise to spin and fire home the winner with 15 minutes remaining, inflicting a harsh defeat on Salernitana who played well in front of their passionate fans and twice struck the woodwork through Mamadou Coulibaly and Joel Obi.
However the southern side, whose coach Fabrizio Castori subbed a Ribery who was lacking match fitness at half-time, remain rooted to the bottom of the table with no points while Atalanta move up to seventh, three points behind Inter.
Published in Dawn, September 20th, 2021