Simone Inzaghi expressed his delight with Inter's reaction as his side came from behind to beat Empoli in the Coppa Italia last 16.

Empoli stunned the Serie A leaders in the second half as substitute Nedim Bajrami cancelled out Alexis Sanchez's opener before the visitors fortuitously took the lead at San Siro when Ionut Radu deflected into his own net.

Andrea Ranocchia levelled things up with a stunning, acrobatic stoppage-time equaliser to send Inter into extra-time in the last 16 of the competition for the fourth time in their last eight outings.

Substitute Stefano Sensi stepped up to deliver the decisive strike after 104 minutes, Inzaghi's side now boasting 20 different scorers this season – more than any other team in Europe's top-five leagues in all competitions.

Despite squandering an initial one-goal lead, Inzaghi was pleased with what he saw from his side as they made the quarter-finals for the 18th time in their last 19 seasons.

"I think we had an excellent first half, where we found the goalkeeper who should be congratulated for two, or three, difficult saves," Inzaghi told Inter TV post-match. 

"In my opinion, we deserved a few more goals, then in the second half we lost clarity, we stretched out. In the spaces, they showed the qualities they have. 

"We went down, we changed players, we changed formation, but the boys gave everything on the pitch, they didn't give up and we go to the quarters with a lot of confidence.

"We suffered, we went under, but I take the big reaction."

Inter return to Serie A action on Saturday when they host Venezia.

Stefano Sensi scored the winner as Inter required extra-time to edge past Empoli 3-2 in the Coppa Italia last 16 on Wednesday.

Alexis Sanchez opened the scoring after just 12 minutes at the San Siro, but Empoli turned things around as substitute Nedim Bajrami equalised before the visitors fortuitously took the lead when Ionut Radu deflected into his own net.

Andrea Ranocchia produced an acrobatic stoppage-time equaliser to send the tie to extra-time and substitute Sensi delivered the decisive strike after 104 minutes. 

Victory meant Simone Inzaghi's Serie A leaders squirmed through to the quarter-finals for the 18th time in 19 seasons.

Inter deservedly took the lead when Sanchez nodded Denzel Dumfries' cross into the bottom-left corner - the forward's second goal in the competition, 4,291 days after his first for Udinese in 2010.

The same pair combined eight minutes later, but Dumfries saw his effort kept out by Jacopo Furlan before a fantastic double save from the Empoli goalkeeper denied Lautaro Martinez.

Ranocchia should have doubled the lead immediately after the interval but wastefully headed over.

Bajrami punished Ranocchia's miss as he placed a left-footed effort into the bottom-right corner after Kristjan Asllani's offload before VAR overturned a penalty decision for a Dumfries handball. 

Empoli went ahead when Radu inadvertently turned into his own net after Patrick Cutrone nodded against the woodwork, though Ranocchia equalised with an audacious volley past Furlan.

Sanchez saw a tap-in ruled out for offside at the end of normal time, but Sensi blasted the winner into the top-left corner from the edge of the area in extra time.

 

What does it mean? Familiar story as Inter need extra-time

Inter enjoyed last-minute success against Juventus in the Supercoppa final last week and required more last-gasp heroics from Ranocchia to keep them in the tie.

The centre-back's equaliser meant four of the Nerazzurri's previous eight last-16 meetings in the competition have gone to extra-time.

Sensi's late strike ensured Inter remain unbeaten against Empoli in 11 games in this competition, the club's longest run against an opponent in the cup without losing, and Inzaghi's side will be among the early favourites to lift the trophy in May.

Brilliant Bajrami

Bajrami almost single-handedly changed Empoli's fortunes after his half-time introduction, scoring the equaliser in a classy attacking display, but his efforts ultimately proved to be in vain.

The substitute created a game-leading four chances despite only playing the second half and extra-time.

Poor Pinamonti

Loanee Andrea Pinamonti was offered the unusual opportunity of starting up top against his parent club Inter but did little to impress.

The striker managed just 13 touches and won none of his five duels before his half-time removal in a timid performance.

What's next?

Inter return to league action on Saturday at home to Venezia, while Empoli host Jose Mourinho's Roma the following day.

Inter have been linked with Juventus star Paulo Dybala, but Simone Inzaghi instead focused on his delight with the recent form of Alexis Sanchez.

Dybala is out of contract at Juve at the end of the campaign and recent reports have suggested that the Nerazzurri will move to add him to their ranks ahead of next season.

But speaking at a news conference ahead of Inter's trip to Atalanta on Sunday, Inzaghi refused to comment on the possibility of moving for the Argentine, who has scored nine goals and registered four assists in 20 games in all competitions for the Old Lady this season.

"I've read and heard things but I don't like talking about players from other teams, I'm proud of the ones I have," he told reporters.

One of the players the former Lazio manager is proud of is Sanchez, who scored the winning goal in the last minute of extra time as Inter beat Juve 2-1 in the Supercoppa Italiana on Wednesday.

"Sanchez has been decisive and I am happy to coach him," Inzaghi added. "For a coach, to see the action that determined the match, with the four players who came on during the match and [Arturo] Vidal was also decisive with his entrance, is a great satisfaction.

"Sanchez is a great asset, but I'll evaluate him for the game against Atalanta.

"I've already said it, Sanchez is a champion who always wants to learn. He didn't need the goal against Juve, he's already settled down for two months."

Inzaghi also had words of praise for Atalanta boss Gian Piero Gasperini, who once again has the Bergamo side in the top four of Serie A, three points ahead of Juve in fifth with a game in hand, with only Inter (51) and Milan (46) having scored more goals in the league than Atalanta's 44.

"Gasperini has been doing well for many years at Atalanta," he said. "Football has evolved over the years and occupying space at the right time is increasingly important.

"It's going to be a good, physical game, one to be experienced. Like the first game [2-2 at San Siro in September], with a very high tempo."

Despite being eight points behind Inter heading into the game, when asked if Sunday's opponents are a part of the race for the Scudetto, Inzaghi insisted: "Absolutely. Atalanta are in fourth place and they're improving all the time. It's a title race match."

Kylian Mbappe is widely expected to join Real Madrid as a free agent at the end of this season.

The Paris Saint-Germain forward has stalled on signing a new deal with the French giants.

Madrid have long courted Mbappe with a view to signing him, but PSG remain determined to keep their man.

TOP STORY – PSG RE-ENTER TALKS WITH MBAPPE

PSG have launched a determined attempt to retain Mbappe after making the France frontman a new contract offer, claims Telefoot.

The Parisians are said to have offered Mbappe a massive two-year deal to fight off attempts to woo him by Real Madrid.

Mbappe is reported to be unwilling to make a decision yet and could let his contract expire. It runs only until the end of June.

 

ROUND-UP

- La Repubblica reports Arsenal are closing in on a deal for Serbian striker Dusan Vlahovic, with Fiorentina said to be considering accepting a £58million offer from the Gunners.

- Italian journalist Fabrizio Romano claims both Barcelona and Bayern Munich are keen to sign Chelsea defender Andreas Christensen at the season's end.

- Manchester United are interested in Inter head coach Simone Inzaghi taking over as their manager next season, according to Corriere dello Sport.

- Southampton have contacted Manchester United about signing goalkeeper Dean Henderson, reports Football Insider. Saints also want to sign Chelsea's Armando Broja permanently but will stiff competition, claims Sky Sports.

- Lille are pursuing former Newcastle United winger Hatem Ben Arfa, reports L'Equipe. Ben Arfa left Bordeaux at the end of last season.

Inter players look set to be given a "prize" from club president Steven Zhang after their dramatic 2-1 Supercoppa Italiana success over Juventus, according to coach Simone Inzaghi.

The Nerazzurri lifted the first piece of silverware of the Italian season late in extra-time, with Alexis Sanchez netting the decisive goal.

Weston McKennie had previously given Juve the lead, before a Lautaro Martinez penalty tied it up.

The two teams would remain level throughout the second half and for much of the additional 30 minutes.

That was until an error from Alex Sandro allowed Matteo Darmian to nudge the ball to Sanchez, who prodded home from close range with the last kick of the game to spark joyous celebrations.

It ensured Inzaghi became the first coach to beat Juventus in three finals (since 1929-30), as he continued his 100 per cent success rate in the Supercoppa.

Inzaghi spoke briefly after the game before sending his assistant to the news conference on account of losing his voice, revealing what president Zhang had told the players afterwards.

"He [Zhang] was very happy," Inzaghi told Mediaset. "He brought the team together and complimented us.

"The boys responded, they wanted a prize and I think the president will grant it."

While Inter will hope to add more significant titles to their collection later in the season, namely the Scudetto, Zhang suggested this success – coupled with their place at the top of the Serie A table – shows their hard work is paying off.

He told Inter TV: "This is a really special moment for us; we're delighted. The team played great, we're also top of the league, and this trophy is the fruits of the labour of both the coach and the players.

"I'm really happy with the result. This trophy win in what's a difficult time in football spurs us on. All of this is down to all the hard work we've put in together over these last six years.

"I'd like to dedicate this win to all of the Inter fans around the world and everyone who works for the club. They're the ones who have carried this project forward."

Simone Inzaghi says his Inter side must maintain the high standards they have set after the champions beat Lazio 2-1 to return to the top of Serie A.

Milan had taken over at the summit with a 3-0 win at Venezia on Sunday, but the Nerazzurri responded with an eighth consecutive Serie A victory in their first game since the winter break later in the day.

Alessandro Bastoni put them in front with a brilliant long-range strike - his first goal since June 2020 - but Ciro Immobile's 18th goal of the season drew Lazio level in the first half.

Bastoni turned provider for Milan Skriniar to secure all three points in the second half, whipping in an inviting cross that his fellow defender headed in off the crossbar.

Inter are unbeaten in 12 top-flight matches since a 3-1 loss when head coach Inzaghi made a miserable return to his former club Lazio in October.

They lead fierce rivals Milan by a point with a game in hand, but Inzaghi knows they cannot rest on their laurels in the title race.

3 - In 18 appearances in this #SerieA season, Milan Skriniar has scored three goals (all header), as many as those scored in 32 games played in the last season. Giant.#InterLazio

— OptaPaolo  (@OptaPaolo) January 9, 2022

He told DAZN: "I am fortunate to have important players and I am very happy. We must continue like this because the championship does not stop, all the antagonists have won.

"We just have to win, after the break we had the postponement with Bologna [on Thursday due to Bologna's COVID-19 outbreak] and we returned against a team that could have been more on the ball, having played on Thursday.

"The boys were very good and I congratulated them."

Lautaro Martínez had a goal disallowed when the VAR adjudged the striker to have been marginally offside as he raced to get on the end of Alexis Sanchez's defence-splitting pass before Bastoni opened the scoring.

Inter were good value for their victory after conceding for the first time in seven Serie A matches and now turn their attention to a Supercoppa Italiana showdown with Juventus on Wednesday.

Inzaghi added: "It wasn't easy because Lazio have quality. Our victory is well deserved, we made an excellent return. I'm happy, we have another great match on Wednesday, it's a final and we have prepared ourselves in the best way possible."

Simone Inzaghi lauded his Inter players for an outstanding first half of the Serie A season, pointing out a successful defence of the Scudetto was not always widely expected.

Inter are favourites for a second straight title heading into the second half of the campaign having created a gap at the top of the table through 19 matchweeks.

In beating Torino 1-0 on Wednesday, the Nerazzurri moved seven points clear of Napoli and Milan, who were both in action later the same day.

But Inter had to withstand a tumultuous off-season to get to this point, losing coach Antonio Conte and star players Romelu Lukaku, Achraf Hakimi and, to health issues, Christian Eriksen.

It was not necessarily a given then that the champions would maintain their form from last term, reaching the end of 2021 having scored 104 goals (the most since Milan's 120 in 1950) and won 32 matches (trailing only Juventus' 33 in 2016) in Serie A.

The Torino game, settled by Denzel Dumfries' latest strike, was not Inter's best display either but marked a sixth straight win without conceding for the first time in their top-flight history.

A delighted Inzaghi, who left Lazio to join Inter at the end of last season, told a news conference: "I immediately had great confidence when I joined and met the squad.

"Now, it is probably convenient for everyone to saw that Inter are a juggernaut and are the favourites, but I remember in July that's now what people were saying.

"The players have been good, but for us these results must be motivation to keep pushing, as a journey full of pitfalls awaits us."

Dumfries is not an obvious difference-maker in the final third, scoring twice in 30 Eredivisie games for PSV last season, but he now has three in 16 in Serie A.

Five team-mates have four goals or more, with Inter now boasting options in attack as well as an increasingly sturdy defence.

Defender Alessandro Bastoni told DAZN: "We've gone on a good run of not conceding goals after a tough start.

"It was important to re-establish a solid defence in line with what we were doing last season and we're doing great in that regard.

"Coach Simone Inzaghi's approach gives us an element of surprise which we were perhaps lacking last year. We have a great time together on the pitch and we get on great together. The new players have slotted right in.

"We're on a great winning run and we want to keep this up. We want to experience the feeling of winning the Scudetto, which we got to enjoy last season."

Inter head coach Simone Inzaghi is happy with the Nerazzurri's first half to the season but says you do not win trophies for being top at Christmas.

The Nerazzurri face Torino on Wednesday knowing that win, lose or draw they will sit top of the Serie A at Christmas, currently holding a four-point lead from Napoli and Milan who are both on 39 points.

Inzaghi took over at Inter following a challenging off-season for the champions with Antonio Conte exiting along with Romelu Lukaku but has steadied after a slow start yet he is motivated for more.

“It’s normal to be pleased at the moment," Inzaghi told Inter TV. "We’re thrilled to be top of the table heading into the winter break, but we know we don’t get any trophies for that.

"It’s a great feeling, but it should also spur us on to achieve more.

“We’re in good form. The players are all committed. We’re lucky enough to be working well together despite having so many fixtures to play.

"We’re doing well, but we know there’s still a long way to go. We’ve seen that over the first 18 games of the season the leaders have changed quickly."

Inter boasts an impressive record after 18 games, with 13 wins and only one defeat, having scored a league-high 48 goals despite Lukaku's off-season departure.

The Nerazzurri have won six in a row in the league and are undefeated in 10 games, dating back to October's 3-1 loss to Lazio.

Inzaghi's side have also qualified for the last-16 of the Champions League where they will face Liverpool.

"We’re on track in terms of what was asked of us, which was to get back into the last 16 in the Champions League and to be in the top four in the league, so we’re pleased," Inzaghi added.

"The players are working very hard and there’s motivation to keep going down this path, with all the many challenges that lie in wait.”

Simone Inzaghi admits Liverpool were one of the teams that Inter were aiming to avoid in the Champions League knockout stages.

The Nerazzurri have been drawn to play the six-time European champions in the last 16 of the competition; hosting the Reds at San Siro on February 16 before the return leg at Anfield three weeks later.

Group B winners Liverpool were one of three sides to progress from the first phase with a 100 per cent record intact, along with Bayern Munich and Ajax.

Meanwhile, Inter finished as Group D runners-up behind Real Madrid, who inflicted home and away defeats on the reigning Serie A champions.

"Liverpool were among the teams to avoid, along with Manchester City and Bayern Munich," Inzaghi said on Sky Sport Italia.

"But now we are in the last 16, and we will play it knowing that we meet a team that have won all six in the group and that won the Champions League two years ago."

The two sides last met at this stage of the 2007-08 competitions, with the Reds prevailing 3-0 aggregate winners.

Inter head coach Simone Inzaghi wants one more push from his side in 2021 before a short Christmas break and a seriously daunting run of matches.

The Serie A leaders breezed past Salernitana on Friday, Ivan Perisic, Denzel Dumfries, Alexis Sanchez, Lautaro Martinez and Roberto Gagliardini scoring in a 5-0 victory.

The result put Inter four points clear at the top with one match left before the mid-season break, while they also became just the fourth side in Serie A history to score 100 or more goals in a calendar year.

The champions are on a run of six consecutive victories, the past five of which have all come without the Nerazzurri conceding a goal, but an ominous run of fixtures lies in wait in early 2022.

After Torino on Wednesday and Bologna on January 6, Inter host Lazio in the league before facing Juventus in the Supercoppa Italiana, after which they head to Atalanta.

A home game with Venezia on January 22 is followed by the Milan derby at San Siro and a clash with title-chasing Napoli on February 12 – a game that takes place only four days before the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie with Liverpool.

Inzaghi hopes for another strong showing against Torino before his players can take time to rest and prepare for the matches to come.

"These games look straightforward on paper, but that's not the case," he told Sky Sport Italia. "The boys had the right attitude from the start, I made changes and you couldn't even tell because everyone steps up the same way.

"We have our ninth game in 25 days coming up. It's the last push before the break for Christmas, and we need to grit our teeth.

"I thought we always played good football, but with our commitments in the Champions League, we dropped points along the way.

"We did well to keep our heads up, got back to the top of the table, and now we want to stay there. These boys never stopped, especially those who went on international duty and made long journeys. We need that break so everyone can recharge their batteries."

Inter head coach Simone Inzaghi said the Nerazzurri can be proud of their efforts after moving top of Serie A, but insisted there is plenty of work still to be done.

Defending champions Inter moved a point clear of city rivals Milan at the Serie A summit following a 4-0 rout of Cagliari at San Siro on Sunday.

Lautaro Martinez scored twice – and missed a penalty – while Alexis Sanchez and Hakan Calhanoglu were also on target for high-flying Inter.

It was a dominant display as Inter enjoyed a whopping 75.2 per cent of the possession, registered 24 shots and, but for the heroics of Cagliari goalkeeper Alessio Cragno, they could easily have extended their winning margin.

Inter are also through to the knockout stages of the Champions League and will discover their last-16 opponents in Monday's draw.

Inzaghi was pleased with the way his players responded from their midweek defeat to Real Madrid, but maintained they cannot afford to take anything for granted.

"The lads did really well. I had asked for concentration and focus, as I saw this weekend so many big clubs struggle after European games," he told DAZN.

"I knew Cagliari would be organised, and we needed the right approach. I congratulated them at half-time for their attitude as, although it was only 1-0, they had the right performance, and we just needed to convert more of those chances.

"We are top of the table; we reached the Champions League round of 16 after 11 years, so it's hard to do better."

Inter have won 18 home games in 2021 and have never done better in a single calendar year in Serie A.

Meanwhile, Inter scored 98 goals in Serie A this year, only in 1950 the Nerazzurri scored more goals (99) in a calendar year in the top flight.

"I knew we were playing well from the very start; that was 23 games ago, but there's a long road ahead. We've done well to put together a run of positive results," Inzaghi added.

"Now that we are top, naturally we want to stay there. However, we were seven or eight points off the top just a month ago, so we know it's a tricky and very open season.

"Our aim for Christmas was to reach the Champions League round of 16, because Inter deserved to be there after 11 years, and we did it with a game in hand. Now, we can focus on Serie A for the next few weeks."

Simone Inzaghi said Inter were made to regret failing to capitalise on a positive first-half display in their Champions League defeat against Real Madrid.

Inter were denied top spot in Group D after going down 2-0 to Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu on Tuesday.

Though already guaranteed a place in the knockout phase, goals from Toni Kroos and Marco Asensio ensured Inter will be drawn to play a group winner in the last 16.

Inter were on top of large periods of the first half; with 13 shots, 14 open-play crosses and 54.9 per cent of the possession.

But for all their positive play, visiting Inter could only register a single shot on target and their task was made more difficult after the break following Nicolo Barella's dismissal.

Despite a 10th defeat in 12 European matches against Spanish opposition, Inzaghi insisted the experience will stand his side in good stead heading into the knockout stages.

Inter have lost each of their last four European meetings with Madrid, and have now lost each of their last seven away games against the LaLiga giants.

"Clearly, we wanted to get a different result, but it will be very useful for our future," the head coach said. 

"There are a lot of regrets with the first half because, in my opinion, we played very well and with personality. 

"Unfortunately, we created a lot of situations where the numbers were in our favour, but we went into the interval a goal down.

"It was an open match; we were close to scoring the equaliser after the break. When it became 10 against 11, it was more difficult.

"We are growing; I can say very little to my players in terms of performance. 

"We played well in both games against Real Madrid, but lost them both. Obviously, we have to do something more."

Jose Mourinho congratulated Inter and accepted Roma were deservedly beaten by a "much stronger" side as he suffered a humbling 3-0 defeat against his former team.

Roma were three goals down inside 39 minutes at Stadio Olimpico and failed to muster any sort of response as they slipped to their seventh defeat in 16 Serie A games – their most at this stage since 2008-09.

The defeat was Mourinho's second in eight home league matches as Roma boss, having previously gone 38 without losing at home in Serie A as Inter head coach.

Saturday's contest was the Portuguese's first league meeting with Inter since guiding them to a famous treble in 2009-10 in the second of two successful campaigns at the club.

 

Roma were without a number of players due to suspension, coronavirus and injuries, with key attacking pair Lorenzo Pellegrini and Tammy Abraham among those absent.

Mourinho had no complaints about the scoreline, with his side registering just one shot on target despite Inter backing off in the second half.

"Inter are stronger than us in normal conditions. In non-normal conditions, they are much stronger than us," he told DAZN.

"Last season, they were 29 points ahead of Roma. Today, with COVID, injuries and suspended players, it was very, very difficult.

"Our attacking potential was practically nil. It was very important to score a goal, because we would only have two or three chances. We had three and didn't score.

"When you play with a defence that has Ibanez and various others in positions that are not their usual ones, you still cannot concede the first and third goals. You just can't.

"Congratulations to Inter. I wish them good luck for their next match."

 

Hakan Calhanoglu scored directly from a corner to give Inter the lead – the sixth player to do so in Serie A since 2011-12 – before teeing up ex-Roma striker Edin Dzeko.

Denzel Dumfries added a third for Inter before half-time with his first league goal for the club and that is how it remained in a one-sided affair in the Italian capital.

Inter have scored in each of their last 18 away league matches to equal a club record set in 1951 and have won four games in a row in the league, keeping three clean sheets. 

The victory would have been particularly sweet for Inter boss Simone Inzaghi, who spent more than two decades playing and coaching Roma's city rivals Lazio.

"Naturally, returning to the Olimpico is not normal for me, as it was my home for 22 years," he told DAZN. 

"But I was fully focused on the game as we needed this result. Despite their problems, Roma still had a very competitive first XI.

"I don't know if it was our best performance, but we faced a Roma side that had lost at home only once, so to come here and win like this really boosts our self-esteem.

"It's a great signal and I think the many fans who came to Rome for the game will go home happy."

Simone Inzaghi has challenged Inter to strive for more following their 2-0 win over Spezia.

Goals from Roberto Gagliardini and Lautaro Martinez gave the Nerazzurri a third successive Serie A win for the first time under Inzaghi.

It was a dominant performance at San Siro by the hosts, who registered 31 shots on goal – the most by any side during a single match in the Italian top flight this season.

Victory ensured that Inter remained in third place and maintained pressure on Napoli and Milan.

Though full of confidence and 10 matches unbeaten heading into Saturday's showdown with Roma, Inzaghi has urged his players not to rest of their laurels.

"It was an important game," he said. "The guys were amazing, they entered immediately with the right attitude, and I am very satisfied.

"Closing the game without conceding a goal is a reason for satisfaction. 

"We played a careful game without disuniting, despite the fact that we had in front of us a team all closed and ready to start again. 

"I'm very, very satisfied with the guys, but we know we haven't done anything yet and on Saturday, we have another challenging match ahead of us.

"We are growing. Difficult matches await us but with this union and with this desire, we can do even better."

Gagliardini's first goal of the season set Inter on their way; the midfielder becoming their 13th different scorer this term.

The Italy international has found the net in 13 different Serie A matches for the Nerazzurri, who have gone on to win on each occasion.

"I always try to score goals when I have the opportunity. I'm glad I did it again tonight," he said.

"I am the 13th scorer of the season: it is the testimony that we always plays well, we always have many scoring opportunities. Victories come thanks to everyone's work.

"We are a solid group, we are the reigning Italian champions and this thing gives us great awareness. 

"The match in Rome is very important for our path; we will have to put in all the necessary energy and concentration."

Simone Inzaghi scoffed at the idea of this being a "transition year" for Inter as the reigning Serie A champions showed they are firmly in the title hunt again.

Wholesale change at San Siro has not affected the Nerazzurri's ambition, and a 2-0 win at Venezia ramped up pressure on early front-runners Napoli and Milan.

Inzaghi arrived in the close season to replace Scudetto-winning boss Antonio Conte, while star men Romelu Lukaku and Achraf Hakimi left in big-money transfers. Christian Eriksen has been unavailable since suffering a cardiac arrest at Euro 2020 while on Denmark duty.

Inter appear to have chosen shrewdly by bringing in Inzaghi from Lazio as head coach, while players such as Hakan Calhanoglu and Edin Dzeko have been acquired too.

Calhanoglu's fourth goal of the season – matching his Serie A haul for previous club Milan last term – put Inter on their way against Venezia, before Lautaro Martinez made sure with a stoppage-time penalty.

For Calhanoglu, this was the third successive Serie A game in which he has scored, the first time he has achieved that feat.

Inter duly moved within a point of Napoli and Milan, who are in action on Sunday, and Inzaghi said: "Some people said this was supposed to be a transition year to rebuild. I came in and the club helped me in everything. These players are magnificent and I think we're getting better by the day. We have to keep going like this.

"I'm coaching a group of great players and great men. We got straight down to work in the summer and despite losing Lukaku, Hakimi and Eriksen, we brought in players suited to the way we want to play. Now we're continuing to grow one step at a time."

 

Inter were dominant and deserved winners at Stadio Pier Luigi Penzo, capping a week in which they made sure of their place in the Champions League knockout stage by beating Shakhtar Donetsk. They also beat Napoli last weekend, inflicting a first league defeat of the season on Luciano Spalletti's men.

"It's a great period for us and this was a big week," Inzaghi said, quoted on Inter's website.

"We played some lovely football and the only downside was we couldn't get the second goal to put it to bed earlier. Leaving the game open against a dangerous, well-drilled side like Venezia is always risky. But it was our third game in a short space of time and the lads did a fantastic job."

There were drawbacks to the win in Venice, with Inzaghi reporting Matteo Darmian suffered a "twinge in his thigh".

"Hopefully it's nothing serious. He's a very important player for us," Inzaghi said.

And Calhanoglu came off early in the second half having needed a thigh massage during the interval.

Inzaghi said the Turkish midfielder was "doing brilliantly" for Inter, adding: "After three consecutive games I didn't want to risk him so I took him off 10 minutes into the second half."

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