Inter beats Verona to secure mid-season lead in Serie A
ROME (AP) — It's only the season's midpoint and Inter Milan may already have its lasting image of what is looking more and more like a Serie A title run.
The moment came on Saturday when Davide Frattesi leaped on top of a yellow fence lining the San Siro and erupted in celebration toward the crowd as his teammates mobbed him so wildly that they pulled down his shorts and exposed his black underwear.
Frattesi’s stoppage-time winner proved decisive in a frenetic finish, Lautaro Martinez marked his return from injury with his league-leading 16th goal, and Inter beat relegation-threatened Hellas Verona 2-1 to secure the midseason lead in Serie A.
“I would have done much worse but I didn’t want to get another yellow card for celebrating,” said Frattesi, who came on 10 minutes before he scored.
The game wasn’t won, though, until a penalty kick 10 minutes into added time from Verona striker Thomas Henry hit the post.
Then it was back to celebrating as Inter moved five points clear of Juventus, which visits last-placed Salernitana on Sunday.
Inter drew its previous match and was eliminated from the Italian Cup by Bologna in late December. This dramatic victory put Simone Inzaghi’s team back on track for its title pursuit and the chance to stitch a second star onto its shirt to signify what would be a 20th Italian championship.
Juventus, with three stars and a record 36 Serie A titles, is the only club in Italy with more than one star.
“The tough games to win are the dirty ones — but they’re also the ones that enable you to go all the way,” Frattesi said.
The match started as expected, with Lautaro finishing off a swift vertical move.
Marcus Thuram used one touch with his back to the goal to leave the ball for Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who sent a diagonal pass toward Lautaro. The Argentina international, who missed two games with an injured left thigh, then controlled with his right foot and used the outside of the same foot to slot the ball in past Verona goalkeeper Lorenzo Montipò.
But Inter couldn’t add to the advantage and Henry equalized seconds after coming on by using his knee to redirect in a cross in the 74th.
Inter forward Marko Arnautovic wasted more chances when he accidentally blocked a shot from going in and missed a header from point-blank range.
Frattesi finally restored Inter’s lead when he tapped in a rebound after a volley from Alessandro Bastoni hit the crossbar.
But a foul from Matteo Darmian threatened to render Frattesi’s celebration useless until Henry sent the ensuing penalty off the left post, with a follow-up header from Verona also missing the target.
Fiorentina’s pursuit of a Champions League spot took a hit with a 1-0 loss at Sassuolo, where Andrea Pinamonti put the hosts ahead early.
In the second half, Sassuolo goalkeeper Andrea Consigli saved a penalty kick from Giacomo Bonaventura.
The Viola remained in fourth place, one point ahead of Bologna, which was held to 1-1 by Genoa on Friday.
Also, Monza won at Frosinone 3-2 and moved up to 10th place; and Lecce and Cagliari drew 1-1.
AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/Soccer