Mauro Icardi's second-half brace helped Inter seal a comfortable 2-0 win over Atalanta and climb up to second in Serie A.
Argentina striker Icardi, who scored a hat-trick in a 7-1 battering of Atalanta in last season's corresponding fixture, was denied an opener by a smart save from Etrit Berisha during a mundane first half at San Siro.
But Icardi would not be denied shortly after the break as he opened the scoring with a simple header to bring the home fans to their feet.
Inter's captain came up with the goods again on the hour with another header to essentially put the game to bed and take his tally in a prolific season up to 13 league goals, two behind Serie A's leading scorer Ciro Immobile.
The double ensured Inter took full advantage of Juventus' surprise 3-2 defeat to Sampdoria earlier on Sunday and Luciano Spalletti's side, who remain unbeaten through 13 matches, are just two points adrift of table-topping Napoli.
Ivan Perisic and Antonio Candreva threatened during a bright start from Inter, but it was the visitors who carved out the first clear sight of goal after 15 minutes.
Hans Hateboer threaded a clever pass into the path of Josip Ilicic and the Slovenian's low drive was repelled by his compatriot Samir Handanovic at the near post.
Inter were seemingly rattled and spent the next 10 minutes trying to regain their footing. When they did eventually settle back into their rhythm they should have taken the lead courtesy of Icardi.
Borja Valero's flick through the middle released the Argentinian, who had brilliantly spun his marker, but his effort was too close to Berisha, who was able to get his leg to the initial shot and then scoop the ball up at the second attempt.
Five minutes before the interval, Icardi thought he should have had a penalty after being held back in his attempts to reach another dangerous cross, only for his protestations to be waved away by the referee.
Icardi headed straight at Berisha moments after the restart, but he did not have to wait long to get on the scoresheet as he evaded his marker to head home Candreva's free-kick from six yards in the 51st minute.
The 24-year-old grabbed his second just nine minutes later, steering a superb header into the bottom corner from Danilo D'Ambrosio's right-wing cross.
Any hopes Atalanta had of finding a way back into the game were all-but extinguished by that goal, and Hateboer was on hand to prevent Icardi wrapping up his hat-trick from Perisic's fizzed pass, although the offside flag was raised anyway, as Inter comfortably saw out the three points.
Key Opta stats:
- Inter have collected 33 points over the starting 13 league matches this term: the Nerazzurri have done better only once in Serie A history (34, back in 1950-51).
- Inter have lost none of their last 15 Serie A games (W12 D3): their longest unbeaten streak since February 2008.
- Atalanta have failed to score in an away league match for the first time since December 2016 when they did not find the net at the San Siro Stadium, against AC Milan.
- Inter (6) and Icardi (3) have scored the joint-most headers in the current Serie A.
- Mauro Icardi has now scored six goals against Atalanta: he has netted more only against Juventus (7) and Fiorentina (9) in the top-flight.
- Six out of the eight shots Inter made were attempted by Icardi.
- Inter have not conceded goals in the first half for the sixth game in a row.
19 de diciembre 2018
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