Milan Skriniar’s second-half goal helped Inter Milan edge to a 1-0 victory over Atalanta and restore their lead at the top of Serie A to six points.
After seeing rivals AC Milan win on Sunday to move three points behind, Inter could hardly find their rhythm in the first half as a well-drilled and energetic Atalanta side frustrated their efforts in the final third.
Ivan Perisic and Romelu Lukaku looked bereft of ideas and barely managed an effort in the box, with their closest opening coming when Atalanta centre-back Cristian Romero almost lobbed his own goalkeeper after 15 minutes.
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It was the visitors who looked the more threatening as Emiliano Zapata’s header was well saved by Samir Handanovic five minutes before half-time before Marcelo Brozovic cleared a second effort off the line moments later.
Atalanta continued where they left off in the second half but Inter landed the suckerpunch as Skriniar rifled an effort past Marco Sportiello.
Lukaku could have doubled his side’s lead moments later as Atalanta struggled to regain composure, but Sportiello was there this time to smother the striker as he came through one-on-one.
Atalanta pushed for an equaliser and David Zapata had his side’s best chance to equalise but sent a sliced effort just inches wide of the post. Inter held onto take all three points despite having just one shot on target.
The Azzurri have now won seven matches on the bounce in Serie A.
TALKING POINT - Inter win ugly, like champions.
Seven wins in a row now for Antonio Conte's side, and tonight they looked like true champions as they showed they can win ugly.
Atalanta were arguably the better team and did so well to stop Inter finding any kind of rhythm for all but 10 seconds of the match.
But that’s all it took, and Inter were masters of game management - once they had Skriniar’s goal in the bank they ensured they’d keep a clean sheet, and that rarely looked in doubt.
MAN OF THE MATCH – Marcelo Brozovic
Monumental in midfield and there to clear off the line in the first half when Atalanta were in the ascendancy. In the right place at the right time throughout the night.
Inter XI: Handanovic 7, Skriniar 8, De Vrij 7, Bastoni 6, Hakimi 6, Barella 7, Brozovic 8, Vidal 6, Perisic 5, Lautaro 5, Lukaku 6.
Subs: Eriksen 7, Sanchez 6, Gagliardini 5, D’Ambrosio n/a, Darmian n/a.
Atalanta XI: Sportiello 7, Toloi 7, Romero 6, Djimsiti 7, Maehle 7, De Roon 6, Freuler 5, Gosens 5, Pessina 6, Malinovski 4, Zapata 7.
Subs: Ilicic 6, Miranchuk 5, Muriel 5, Pasalic n/a, Palomino n/a
15’ - CONTE BOOKED! Referee Maurizio Mariani halts play to have a chat with Inter boss Antonio Conte and after a short discussion he books the gaffa. Short fuse...Atalanta with yet another corner but nothing to it.
39’ - SAVE! Oh my word an actual chance! Zupata loses his marker at a corner and even gets a head on the ball but Handanovic makes a fine save.
40’ - OFF THE LINE! More drama as Zapata gets on the end of another corner and Inter's Brozovic heads off the line!
54’ - GOAL! INTER 1 ATALANTA 0 (Skriniar). Inter have the lead against the run of play and it's no surprise really that a defender has the opener the way this game has gone. Skriniar looks every bit a striker with this effort though, sending a low driven effort past Sportiello.
69’ - CHANCE! Zapata gets a second look as he collects a pin-point pass inside the box but his effort is sliced inches wide of the post! So close.
86’ - CHANCE! Pasalic is straight in the mix with an effort from six yards but he somehow sends it wide!
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