Sebastiano Esposito spoke of his gratitude to team-mate Romelu Lukaku after his Inter strike partner allowed him to take a penalty he then converted in an historic appearance against Genoa.
With Lautaro Martinez suspended amid a host of other absences, 17-year-old Esposito made his first Serie A start for Inter on Saturday in an emphatic 4-0 home win that put Antonio Conte’s men top of Serie A.
He was the youngest player to begin a Serie A game for the club in the 21st century and then became their second-youngest league scorer when he netted a 64th-minute penalty.
With Inter two goals ahead, designated spot-kick taker Lukaku – who inspired the win with two goals along with an assist for Roberto Gagliardini – accepted Esposito’s request to hand the ball over, allowing the youngster to fire past goalkeeper Ionut Radu.
“I found myself in sync with Romelu right away, he’s a fantastic person who’s always looking to help me,” Esposito, who celebrated the goal with his mother, said to Sky Sport Italia.
“He reassured me a lot by saying that everything would go alright and I’m so happy to have scored.
“It’s been a fantastic week, I can’t lie, I didn’t sleep a lot thinking about how this game would go. I’d like to thank the team, the coach, the club and Romelu especially for the goal.
“He’s a fantastic person and an extraordinary player. He told me to be sure of myself when I stepped up to strike the ball and to score.
“I’m happy with the win and with the faith that the coach has shown in me, now the more difficult part is coming and we’ll need to work hard.
“All of the sacrifices I’ve made are now bearing fruit and I hope that I can continue on this path because there’s still a lot of work to be done.”
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Goal machine, aerial threat, all-round nice guy…
— Inter (@Inter_en) December 21, 2019
The comprehensive victory by a depleted Inter side was a timely one after a three-game winless run that included their Champions League group-stage elimination.
Conte said: “We didn’t need to wait for this game to say that the team has grown in every aspect.
“The difficulties faced have made the squad more responsible and meant that everyone has been involved. This shows that we’ve always had the right attitude and that includes those who have played less.
“We put in a brilliant performance despite all the difficulties and players missing. Gagliardini, Matias Vecino and Borja Valero made themselves available even though they weren’t in the best condition.
“When you have these players who put the team ahead of everything, you can be pleased regardless of the result. Now, we need to keep it up and keep surprising people.”
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