Mauro Icardi scored a second-half double and Ever Banega was also on target as Inter made it four wins in a row with a 3-0 Serie A victory over Lazio, whose Champions League aspirations were dealt a blow.
Former Sevilla playmaker Banega broke the deadlock after the break with a powerful shot from 20 yards out, before his fellow Argentine put the match to bed with his 13th and 14th league goals of the season.
Stefano Pioli’s men were high on confidence heading into Wednesday’s game at San Siro after putting Sparta Prague, Genoa and Sassuolo to the sword in recent weeks.
Little pointed toward a fourth win in succession in the opening 45 minutes, though, as Lazio dominated proceedings and had a number of chances to take the lead, Ciro Immobile and Felipe Anderson in particular looking dangerous.
But Inter goalkeeper Samir Handanovic did well to preserve parity and three goals within the space of 11 minutes after the interval saw the hosts emerge victorious.
Inter go into the mid-season break seventh in the table, while Lazio remain fourth but could see Napoli go three points ahead of them in the race for the Champions League when Maurizio Sarri’s men visit Fiorentina on Thursday.
— OptaPaolo (@OptaPaolo) December 21, 2016
Lazio immediately pushed forward and could have grabbed the lead after just 38 seconds when Felipe Anderson found Immobile after a mazy run down the right, the striker forcing goalkeeper Samir Handanovic into a good save with his low diagonal shot.
Felipe Anderson continued to cause the Inter defence all kinds of trouble down the right wing early on and he teed up Immobile once more with a low cross midway through the first half as the former Borussia Dortmund striker forced Handanovic into another stop.
The Brazilian winger was at the heart of every Lazio attack in the opening 45 minutes and he was unfortunate not to break the deadlock in the 26th minute, shaking off several Inter defenders with an impressive dribble after cutting inside from the right and seeing his shot hit Danilo D’Ambrosio and trickle wide for a corner.
Inter first threatened on the half-hour mark, when both Marcelo Brozovic and Banega tested Federico Marchetti in quick succession with powerful shots from outside the area, the Lazio goalkeeper equal to both efforts.
Pioli’s men started the second half brightly and went 1-0 up in the 54th minute following a stunning goal from Banega. The Argentine beat Sergej Milinkovic-Savic to a loose ball in midfield, took a touch to control it and found the net with a fierce strike into the top-right corner.
The hosts quickly sought a second and Icardi doubled their lead barely two minutes later. D’Ambrosio sent in a dangerous cross from the right and the prolific striker escaped the attention of Stefan de Vrij before glancing a header past the helpless Marchetti.
Things went from bad to worse for Lazio and Icardi made it three in the 65th minute when Marchetti failed to keep out his low shot after Banega’s free kick.
Icardi twice saw chances to complete his hat-trick go begging as he was denied by Marchetti and the crossbar as Inter made sure that they go into the mid-season break on a high.
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