Antonio Conte felt Inter produced an "extraordinary performance" in the 3-0 defeat of Milan, picking out midfield duo Christian Eriksen and Ivan Perisic for special praise. 

The Nerazzurri moved four points clear at the top of Serie A thanks to a resounding triumph in the derby on Sunday, Lautaro Martinez scoring in each half at San Siro. 

Romelu Lukaku struck his 17th league goal of the season to complete the emphatic victory, in the process becoming the first player to score in four successive derbies for Inter since 1950. 

For Conte, it was a case of the best-laid plans coming to fruition, albeit they needed captain Samir Handanovic to make a trio of superb saves early in the second half when the score was still at 1-0. 

"Compliments to our guys, who made an extraordinary performance," Conte said. 

"A very well-prepared match, which they followed perfectly, translating the situations they experienced on the pitch.   

"There is satisfaction in seeing the growth of the group and I am happy because the guys they deserve to reap the benefits of the work we are doing."

Both Eriksen and Perisic, two players linked with moves away in the previous transfer window, enjoyed pivotal roles for Inter.

Making just his seventh league start of the campaign, Eriksen completed 90 per cent of his attempted passes and made nine crosses despite playing in a cental position.

Perisic, meanwhile, provided two assists, including a low cross from Inter's left flank that allowed Martinez to crucially double the advantage not long after a heavy spell of Milan pressure.

"I think the task of a coach is to try to bring all the elements of the squad to improve and to enter into the idea of football that we intend to develop," Conte said when asked about the turnaround in fortunes for the duo.

"The growth of Christian and Ivan, but of all our players, makes me proud."

On Eriksen, who scored a dramatic winner against Milan in the Coppa Italia earlier in the season, the former Chelsea boss added: "Many times hasty judgments are made, as happened for Christian.

"Sometimes it takes a little time, especially when you come from abroad.  

"The same goes for Ivan, who this year has shown a great desire to challenge himself. He put himself at the full disposal of the cause and today he played an extraordinary match. He has incredible potential and must believe even more in himself."

Inter handed Milan a fifth defeat in 2021 in all competitions, which is two more than they suffered throughout the previous year. 

Lautaro Martinez declared Inter showed their true colours in Sunday's 3-0 derby victory over Milan at San Siro.

The Nerazzurri moved four points clear at the top of Serie A thanks to a double from Martinez and Romelu Lukaku's 23rd goal of the season in all competitions.

Lukaku crossed for his strike partner to nod in after only five minutes and each of them scored after the interval to put the game beyond Milan's reach.

Having been eliminated from European competition in December and beaten in the Coppa Italia semi-finals by Juventus, the Scudetto remains Inter's only hope for silverware in 2020-21.

Martinez is now determined to end the club's 11-year wait to become champions of Italy again.

"This is what we are: we're united, we work every day to give our best and to reach as high as we can, and today we proved it," Martinez told DAZN.

"We run and fight together; you can see it on the pitch. We have suffered a lot this year: two eliminations from the Coppa Italia and the Champions League. This [Serie A] is the only goal left and we're fighting for it. We're happy to be ahead of everyone else."

Lukaku became the first Inter player since Benito Lorenzi in 1950 to score in four consecutive league derbies against Milan.

Martinez believes the Belgium international can still get better as he aims to win a first club trophy since the Belgian Pro League with Anderlecht in 2010.

"Lukaku can improve a lot," Martinez said. "He's 27 years old, he works and he makes himself available to his team-mates. He's a great person on and off the pitch and we're happy to have him with us."

Inter were mostly in control of the contest but were indebted to goalkeeper Samir Handanovic in the first three minutes of the second half, as he twice denied Zlatan Ibrahimovic in quick succession before tipping a Sandro Tonali shot over the bar.

"Handanovic is always ready. We're happy because, when we need him, he always responds," Martinez said.

"We also should have been more focused [early in the second half], but we're happy to have played a good game and to have got three points."

Inter moved four points clear at the Serie A summit thanks to a resounding 3-0 derby triumph over faltering rivals Milan on Sunday.

Lautaro Martinez scored twice and Romelu Lukaku was also on target, helping Antonio Conte's in-form side make it five wins in their past six league outings to take a firm grip on the title race in Italy.

This was the first time since April 2011 that the city rivals had met when occupying the top two positions in the table, with that season finishing with Milan crowned as champions.

A repeat for the Rossoneri looks increasingly unlikely as their worrying dip in form continued, though they were somewhat unfortunate to come up against a goalkeeper in supreme form.

Samir Handanovic twice repelled Zlatan Ibrahimovic in quick succession early in the second half before Martinez's second goal of the contest, with Lukaku then putting an emphatic seal on the victory in the 66th minute.

However, it was Martinez who had crucially headed Inter in front inside five minutes. Lukaku initially saw his attempted low cross blocked, but a second, floated delivery picked out his team-mate to head past Gianluigi Donnarumma, making his 200th Serie A appearance.

Milan were grateful Lukaku did not take a glorious opportunity before the break, the Belgian striker failing to apply the finishing touch to Ivan Perisic's inviting cross as he missed the ball completely.

Stefano Pioli's team started the second half with a flurry of opportunities; Handanovic spectacularly turned away an Ibrahimovic header at a corner before producing a point-blank block to again deny the Swede when the ball came back into the penalty area.

Inter's captain also pushed a rising drive from Sandro Tonali over the crossbar, maintaining a lead they soon doubled when a clinical counter-attacking move allowed Perisic to pick out Martinez, who fired in with his left foot.

Lukaku put the game well beyond Milan with a fine solo effort, finishing a powerful run from deep in Milan's half with a low shot that flashed beyond Donnarumma. In doing so, he became the first Inter player to score in four successive Serie A derbies since 1950.

Romelu Lukaku answered any recent criticism aimed in his direction against Lazio and Christian Eriksen is starting to understand what Inter require of him, says Nerazzurri coach Antonio Conte.

Inter bowed out of the Coppa Italia at the semi-final stage after a goalless draw at Juventus ensured a 2-1 aggregate defeat, but a 3-1 triumph over Lazio on Sunday saw Conte's side leapfrog rivals Milan at the top of Serie A.

Lukaku scored twice in the first half to move on to 300 career goals, and Lautaro Martinez was on target after Gonzalo Escalante had replied for the visitors at San Siro.

Speaking about the Belgium striker's showing, Conte told Sky Sport: "Romelu, like the whole team, gave a great response. Lautaro did, so did Ivan Perisic, the defenders, Marcelo Brozovic. They all stepped up.

"Some were starting to murmur about Lukaku after the Coppa Italia and a few lacklustre performances, suggesting he had some psychological blowback from that, but there are moments when you are not at 100 per cent.

"He came back firing on all cylinders and we need this Romelu. We need this determination and passion from everyone in the team."

Eriksen signed from Tottenham amid much fanfare in January 2020 but struggled to hit the ground running and was heavily linked with an exit last month.

However, the Denmark playmaker stayed put and has since impressed, something Conte puts down to becoming familiar with the requirements of Italian football.

"I think Christian had a few problems settling in, understanding Italian football, which is very difficult and tactical compared to the Premier League. There is also a far greater intensity now than in previous years here," Conte added.

"We tried in every way to settle him in, even changing tactical system. I think now he has made a step towards us, is starting to understand Italian, which is an important development too. He is understanding what we need.

"Eriksen was very focused when defending as well as attacking. He has a different power to his leg now after the fitness work.

"He's an extra option for us and I am more comfortable relying on him now."

Next up for Inter is a huge derby clash with Milan, a match that is sure to have huge ramifications on the outcome of the Scudetto.

Conte is relishing the challenge after seeing off a Lazio side that had won six straight league games.

"This was an objective we'd been chasing for a long time, to get to the top of the table, we achieved it after a game against a very strong team," he added.

"I congratulate Lazio and Simone Inzaghi, as they are tough, organised and with a lot of quality.

"The fact they were coming off six consecutive victories shows their strength, but at the same time it shows our mental strength.

"I am happy for the lads, inevitably this must be a starting point for us and not the finish line. We know the next game is the derby with Milan, going into it ahead is obviously much better.

"It's going to be a fascinating game between two teams who have strong ambitions."

Romelu Lukaku scored twice and assisted another to help Inter to a 3-1 win over Lazio that lifted Antonio Conte's men above bitter rivals Milan to the top of Serie A.

Milan's shock 2-0 loss to Spezia on Saturday opened the door for Inter and they pounced at San Siro on Sunday, taking a one-point lead into next weekend's huge Derby della Madonnina.

Lazio were furious with the awarding of Inter's 22nd-minute penalty as replays appeared to show Wesley Hoedt, drafted in after Stefan Radu was injured in the warm-up, got some of the ball before taking out Lautaro Martinez.

Lukaku converted and added a second ahead of half-time with the assistance of VAR, before teeing up Martinez to seal the points after Gonzalo Escalante had given Lazio some temporary hope.

There had been little between the sides prior to the controversial penalty call, with the VAR standing by referee Michael Fabbri's decision to point to the spot for Hoedt's challenge on Martinez.

Lukaku sent Pepe Reina the wrong way to extend his perfect penalty record in Serie A to 10 from 10, and the Belgium international did not have to wait long for the landmark 300th career goal for club and country.

It had an element of fortune about it as Marcelo Brozovic slid in on Manuel Lazzari and the ball ricocheted into the striker's path, though it took a lengthy VAR check to ascertain that Lukaku was level with the last man when the initial pass was played.

Lazio had found the net in each of their past 17 league outings, however, and they kept that run going when Sergej Milinkovic-Savic's free-kick heavily deflected off substitute Escalante and beat Samir Handanovic on his 500th Serie A appearance.

But just when the visitors had some momentum on their side, Lukaku charged down the right, held off Marco Parolo and unselfishly squared the ball for Martinez to tap into an empty net.

Reina denied Lukaku a hat-trick with a good save down low but Inter, knocked out of the Coppa Italia by Juventus in midweek, retained their two-goal cushion to move to the summit.

Cristiano Ronaldo's first-half brace saw Juventus come from behind to claim a 2-1 first-leg win against Inter in the semi-finals of the Coppa Italia.

Lautaro Martinez put speculation of a new contract aside to fire Inter in front before Ronaldo emphatically dispatched a 26th-minute penalty.

There was still plenty for Ronaldo to do 10 minutes before the interval when Samir Handanovic charged out to leave his goal unguarded, yet the 35-year-old clipped home with aplomb.

Inter had the better of the second half but were unable to find a response as top scorer Romelu Lukaku served a suspension.

Gianluigi Buffon endured a moment to forget on his 1,100th career appearance as Inter took a ninth-minute lead.

Alexis Sanchez held up play shrewdly for Nicolo Barella, whose measured cross was struck first time by Martinez. Buffon got down in awkward fashion and his touch could not prevent the ball from spinning into his goal.

A VAR review gave Juventus the chance to get back on terms, with referee Gianpaolo Calvarese deciding Ashley Young had impeded Juan Cuadrado enough to award a penalty.

Ronaldo made no mistake, lashing his spot-kick high into the net.

While Handanovic had no chance on that occasion, his inexplicable decision to charge out as Alessandro Bastoni tried to shepherd a hopeful ball away from Ronaldo left the five-time Ballon d'Or winner to slot calmly into an unguarded net.

Young had a drive pushed over by Buffon early in the second half when Juve partially cleared a set-piece, while Handanovic recovered his poise to cleverly keep out a deflected Bernardeschi shot from inside the box.

This was a game where errors continued to enhance the entertainment value. In the 58th minute, a horrible touch from Rodrigo Bentancur coughed up possession to Inter on the edge of the Juve box.

Sanchez looked certain to score, with Buffon stranded, but Merih Demiral made an astonishing goal-line clearance.

Buffon rolled back the years to thwart Matteo Darmian at close quarters following fine work from Sanchez and Martinez, and the latter duo could not fashion an equaliser in Lukaku's absence.

Will he stay or will he go?

That is the question regarding Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe, who is a reported target for Real Madrid and Liverpool.

If Mbappe opts to call time on his PSG stall, the French champions are still aiming high.

 

TOP STORY – LIFE WITHOUT MBAPPE IN PARIS?

Paris Saint-Germain are more determined than ever to give head coach Mauricio Pochettino a dream forward line amid doubts over Kylian Mabppe's future, according to Le10 Sport.

Mbappe – out of contract in 2022 – has been heavily linked with LaLiga champions Real Madrid and Premier League holders Liverpool.

If Mbappe does not remain in Paris, PSG will step up their pursuit of Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi.

 

ROUND-UP

Massimiliano Allegri has turned down Roma as he waits for Madrid, repots Todofichajes. Zinedine Zidane is under mounting pressure in the Spanish capital, while it is a similar situation for Roma boss Paulo Fonseca.

Manchester City are willing to sign a striker and Messi this offseason, according to The Athletic. With City yet to offer Sergio Aguero a new deal, Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland and Inter pair Lautaro Martinez and Romelu Lukaku are reported targets as Pep Guardiola's side also eye soon-to-be free agent Messi.

- Fabrizio Romano says Liverpool have agreed to sign Ben Davies from Preston North End ahead of Monday's deadline day. Jurgen Klopp has been eyeing a defender due to the club's injury crisis.

Dele Alli's proposed switch from Tottenham to PSG is not progressing, reports Romano. Struggling for game time at Spurs, Alli has been keen for a loan move to PSG, but Tottenham are unwilling to sanction a departure as Inter block Christian Eriksen's return.

Leicester City are the frontrunners to sign Arsenal's Ainsley Maitland-Niles, claims The Mirror.

Inter forward Lautaro Martinez said he is in advanced talks with the club over a new contract.

The Argentina international's existing deal does not run out until the end of the 2022-23 season, but he has been linked with a move away from Inter.

Martinez has scored 41 goals and supplied 12 assists in 112 games in all competitions for Inter since he joined them from Racing Club in July 2018.

Speaking after Inter's 4-0 win over Benevento on Saturday, Martinez said he is on course to commit his future to the Nerazzurri.

"We're looking for that," Martinez told DAZN, when asked if he close to signing a deal until 2024.

"I'm happy at Inter, everyone behaves very well with me."

Martinez ended a run of four Serie A games without a goal against Benevento as victory ensured Antonio Conte's side kept the pressure up on leaders Milan.

The 23-year-old was guilty of missing a number of chances in the match as he took his tally against promoted teams to eight in 14 appearances.

"Of course, I'm a striker and I have to score but I work for the team," he added.

"I have to improve. I want to do it every day, give my best for Inter and for the coach to see it.

"There are many easy goals that I don't score, and I score one that I haven't tried. But the important thing is that Inter win, I work to give my best. We are happy."

Martinez's fellow striker Romelu Lukaku scored twice even though his performance was far from a vintage one.

"He is very important for us, today even at a low level he scored two goals," Martinez explained.

"We are happy, we work for this and we are happy if Inter win. Then if we score, it's better."

Romelu Lukaku scored twice as Inter kept the pressure up on Serie A leaders Milan with a confident 4-0 home victory over Benevento on Saturday.

Antonio Conte's side took the lead through a Riccardo Improta own goal in the seventh minute and were never really troubled at San Siro.

Lautaro Martinez ended a run of four Serie A games without a goal with a fine finish for Inter's second as he took his tally against newly promoted teams to eight in 14 appearances.

Lukaku then wrapped up the points for Inter when he scored twice with clinical finishes after smart assists from Martinez and Alexis Sanchez.

If Paris Saint-Germain have their way, Lionel Messi will be playing for the French giants in 2021-22.

But will he be playing alongside Kylian Mbappe in Paris?

Real Madrid target Mbappe could stay.

 

TOP STORY – MESSI IN, MBAPPE OUT?

Paris Saint-Germain want to sign Lionel Messi but Kylian Mbappe could remain with the Ligue 1 champions, according to reports.

Barcelona captain Messi is out of contract at season's end and has been heavily linked with PSG and Manchester City.

Le Parisien says there is no doubt who will replace Mbappe at PSG if he departs for LaLiga champions Real Madrid, though Canal + journalist Pierre Menes claims the French forward is interested in staying at Parc des Princes.

 

ROUND-UP

Madrid are considering a €45million (£39.9m) bid to re-sign Sergio Reguilon from Tottenham, according to Sport. Reguilon left the LaLiga champions at the start of the season, but Madrid have an option to buy him back within two years.

- Calciomercato says Juventus are eyeing Bayern Munich duo Corentin Tolisso and Joshua Zirkzee. Bayern are reportedly unwilling to let Zirkzee leave permanently.

- Sport 1 claims Borussia Dortmund are set to battle German rivals Bayern for Borussia Monchengladbach star Florian Neuhaus. The 23-year-old reportedly has a €40m release clause.

- RB Leipzig attacker Hwang Hee-chan could be loaned out amid links to West Ham, reports Kicker.

Inter and Lautaro Martinez remain in negotiations over a new contract, reports Calciomercato. Once tipped to join Barca, Martinez's Camp Nou dream appears to be fading due to the economic situation caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Inter are not prepared to meet Martinez's wage demands at the moment.

Inter star Lautaro Martinez's future could be closer to being sorted, while Frank Lampard is under enormous pressure.

After impressing at Inter, Martinez, 23, has been strongly linked with a move to Barcelona.

The Argentina international is contracted at Inter until 2023, but that could be set to change.

 

TOP STORY – INTER OPTIMISTIC OVER MARTINEZ RENEWAL

Inter are optimistic about reaching an agreement for a new contract with Lautaro Martinez, according to Sky Sport.

The report says Martinez's agents met with Inter on Wednesday.

Martinez has scored nine goals in 18 Serie A games this season, having netted 14 in 35 in the league in 2019-20, leading to interest from Barcelona.

 

ROUND-UP

- As Chelsea's struggles continue, Lampard is under growing pressure as head coach. Sky Sports reports the former England international will lose his job unless results improve immediately. Chelsea have lost five of their past eight Premier League games to slip to eighth in the table. The Independent, meanwhile, reports Chelsea are not interested in an interim replacement. Former Paris Saint-Germain boss Thomas Tuchel, RB Leipzig coach Julian Nagelsmann, Southampton's Ralph Hasenhuttl and ex-Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri have been linked.

- Previously linked to Arsenal, Houssem Aouar may be looking elsewhere if he leaves Lyon. ESPN claims the midfielder is eager to join Barcelona or Real Madrid.

- Set to stay at Manchester City until the end of the season, Eric Garcia has been linked with a move to Barcelona when his deal expires in June. However, Mundo Deportivo says PSG are planning a move for the defender.

- Arsenal could make moves in January. Sky Sports reports they have approached Real Madrid about a move for Martin Odegaard, while Cuatro claims Sevilla are hoping to loan the midfielder.

A little before the midway point of the season, heading into Sunday's Derby d'Italia, you could argue Inter have Juventus just where they would have wanted them.

Antonio Conte was brought to San Siro in 2019 and strongly backed in the transfer market with the primary aim of ending the dynasty he launched back in 2011-12 in Turin.

Juve have won every Scudetto since then but are four points behind Inter having played a game less.

Unfortunately for Conte, the Nerazzurri aren't the only side with designs on ripping away the Bianconeri's long-held crown.

Milan remain top of the table despite succumbing to a 3-1 defeat to Juve earlier this month, where they were subjected to arguably the most authoritative display of the fledgling Andrea Pirlo era.

Nine points separate Milan from Atalanta, Napoli and Lazio in fifth, sixth and seventh. Like fourth-place Juve, the former two have a game in hand on the leaders.

Inter are their local rival's nearest challengers, three points from the top and three better off than third-place Roma, who were left with wounded pride by Friday's 3-0 derby defeat to Lazio.

Struggles for consistency and congested title races can be seen across Europe as the effects of truncated pre-seasons and packed schedules continue to shake out.

However, the firepower up front for Inter and Juve provides a strong case for both breaking clear of the pack, while promising a thrilling high-stakes shootout at San Siro.

Lukaku-Martinez partnership brings joy

Conte's second and final season in charge of Chelsea in 2017-18 was soured before kick-off as Manchester United beat him to the signature of Romelu Lukaku.

It was clear that state of affairs did little for either man by the time they finally came together at Inter before the start of last season.

Had Lukaku ranked himself as being among the top five strikers in world football, as he did last month, during the 2019 transfer window, plenty would have sniggered.

But the big Belgian has put a patchy spell at Old Trafford behind him to shine at San Siro.

 

Since the start of last season, Lukaku has 51 goals in all competitions - placing him fourth among players across Europe's top five leagues during that period, in between Lionel Messi in fifth and a certain prospective weekend opponent who is five goals better off.

While not quite as prolific, Argentina international Lautaro Martinez has been a more than able accomplice, racking up 31 in 73 matches over the past season and a half.

Nevertheless, despite this mountain of goals and Inter being Serie A's top scorers, there is a sense that Conte's front two could be more clinical.

No player in the big five leagues with 25 goals or more to their name since the beginning of 2019-20 has a lower shot conversion rate than Martinez's 12.4 per cent.

While Lukaku's conversion rate in 2020-21 is comparatively healthier at 27.9 per cent, in Serie A alone his nine goals from open play come in below an expected goals (xG) figure of 9.8 (Lukaku's three converted penalties do not figure in Opta's xG calculations).

The concern for Conte is that this relative wastefulness takes a heavier toll on the big occasion.

Inter crashed out of the Champions League after winning a solitary group match and have failed to win any of their four Serie A matches so far against last season's top six - a run continued by the raucous 2-2 draw with Roma last time out.

Ronaldo finds ideal foil in Morata

An obvious fear from an Inter perspective is that issues Martinez and Lukaku might have on the grandest stages will only be magnified by comparison to who they face this weekend.

No man in the 21st century has hit the heights of goalscoring obsession known by Cristiano Ronaldo.

Even if Juventus do not have the rampaging version that thrilled at Manchester United and Real Madrid, Ronaldo is raging against Father Time with utter conviction when it comes to putting the ball in the net.

Only Robert Lewandowski - way out in front on 78 - has more than the Portugal great's 56 in the big five leagues from August 2019 onwards.

Among that group of attackers with 25 goals or more, Ronaldo has fired off the most shots with 354. Messi (329) and Lewandowski (297) are not particularly close behind.

Chillingly for opponents, he has found much greater efficiency this season. Ronaldo's shot conversion rate is 23.5 per cent in 2020-21 so far, a 10 per cent increase on the prior campaign. His 11 open-play goals in Serie A have an xG value of 7.9.

 

If there is a new level of serenity to Ronaldo's play, part of the credit can perhaps go to the man alongside him. 

Alvaro Morata was the third corner of the tangled Lukaku-Conte transfer triangle back in 2017, his time at Chelsea proving to be as sapping as Lukaku's at United. A loan to Atletico Madrid arrived midway through 2018-19. 

Despite that move being made permanent, another loan back to Juventus came prior to the current campaign. 

Under his old team-mate Pirlo, Morata looks like a player reborn, scoring 11 times in all competitions. Only four of those have been in Serie A but his seven assists over the course of the campaign are already more than he managed in the past two completed seasons - casting him as the ideal supporting act to Juve's indisputable lead performer. 

One of the best five in the world, one of the greatest of all time, Argentina's next superstar striker or the quiet man from Madrid. On Sunday, one of them is set to step forward and add a key twist to a gripping Scudetto race.

Lautaro Martinez hit a perfect hat-trick and Romelu Lukaku sparkled as Inter defeated Crotone 6-2 at San Siro to turn up the heat on Milan at the start of 2021.

Inter moved top of Serie A at least until Milan's meeting with Benevento later on Sunday as they recovered from a testing first half to ease past their struggling visitors.

It was all square at the break after Martinez cancelled out Niccolo Zanellato's opener and was in close attendance for a Luca Marrone own goal prior to Vladimir Golemic's equalising penalty.

But Martinez completed his treble following the interval, while Lukaku, involved in the first four Nerazzurri goals, was also on target and Achraf Hakimi swept in the sixth in a fifth straight home win.

Only an apparent injury to the outstanding Lukaku put a slight dampener on a day that had started in laboured fashion.

Crotone struck first as a smart set-piece routine created an angle for Junior Messias to loft in a left-footed cross and find Zanellato all alone six yards out, able to head in via the post.

But Inter were level when Lukaku's excellent reverse pass set Martinez clear to fire right-footed beyond Alex Cordaz, and more fine work from the former Manchester United forward turned the game on its head.

Lukaku seized on Arturo Vidal's tackle in the midfield and fed Nicolo Barella, who was taken wide by a heavy touch but managed to cut the ball back for Marrone to stab into his own net in front of Martinez.

Vidal's next contribution was rather more rugged, however, as he stepped on Arkadiusz Reca's foot in the area to concede a spot-kick - awarded following a VAR review - which Golemic dispatched.

Martinez restored Inter's lead 12 minutes after half-time, keeping his cool on his left foot as Marcelo Brozovic prodded the ball on following a backheel from Lukaku, who got the goal he deserved soon enough, too.

The game's standout performer span away from Sebastiano Luperto and sold Cordaz a dummy to leave a simple finish, although he then indicated an issue with 15 minutes remaining and was quickly substituted.

Martinez remained on the pitch to nod in the rebound when Cordaz saved from Ivan Perisic, Lukaku's replacement, and Hakimi had the final say.
 

What does it mean? Your move, Rossoneri

Milan are the only remaining unbeaten team in Europe's 'top five' leagues but will have to maintain their pace to keep clear of Inter on this evidence.

The Nerazzurri have won five in a row at home in Serie A for the first time since 2018 and look a match for any opponent with Martinez and Lukaku in top form.

Landmark Lukaku looks the part

This was Lukaku's 50th Serie A appearance and his tally of 35 goals in that time has only been bettered by five players in the three-point era.

It was the front man's work as Inter's battering ram that was most impressive here, however, finishing with just a single assist from his only key pass but winning both his duels and holding the ball up brilliantly to create the space for Martinez to have seven attempts.

Marrone endures torrid time

Marrone's own goal under pressure from Martinez epitomised a dreadful outing for the former Juventus defender.

He might have found his own net again early in the second half and was a liability throughout despite weighing in with four clearances, three interceptions and a tackle.

Key Opta Facts

- Inter have won eight Serie A games in a row for the first time since December 2008.
- Inter have scored at least 40 goals in the first 15 Serie A games played for the first time since 1950-51 (45 in that case).
- Crotone have conceded at least six goals in a Serie A match for the first time in their history.
- Martinez's treble is the first perfect hat-trick from an Inter player since Mauro Icardi in March 2017 (vs Atalanta).

What's next?

There is no easing back into league action in 2021 as Inter are playing again as soon as Wednesday, visiting Sampdoria. Crotone host Roma the same day.

Lautaro Martinez hit a perfect hat-trick and Romelu Lukaku sparkled as Inter defeated Crotone 6-2 at San Siro to turn up the heat on Milan at the start of 2021.

Inter moved top of Serie A at least until Milan's meeting with Benevento later on Sunday as they recovered from a testing first half to ease past their struggling visitors.

It was all square at the break after Martinez cancelled out Niccolo Zanellato's opener and was in close attendance for a Luca Marrone own goal prior to Vladimir Golemic's equalising penalty.

But Martinez completed his treble following the interval, while Lukaku, involved in the first four Nerazzurri goals, was also on target and Achraf Hakimi swept in the sixth in a fifth straight win.

Only an apparent injury to the outstanding Lukaku put a slight dampener on a day that had started in laboured fashion.

 

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