Romelu Lukaku scored twice as Inter Milan cruised to a 3-1 win over Napoli on Monday to pull even with Juventus atop the table and further their bid to unseat eight-time Serie A champions.
Inter extended its unbeaten run to 11 games (eight wins) in the process and moved back to a level points total with Juve, though they remain second in the title race due to head-to-head points (Juve won 3-1 at the San Siro in October).
Lukaku scored the game’s first and second goals, putting Inter 2-0 ahead after 33 minutes. The first came just before the quarter-hour mark, when the big Belgian striker dribbled half the length of the field, beating two defenders before pinging his left-footed strike on the inside of the post from near the top of the 18-yard box.
It was 2-0 just beyond the half-hour mark, and it was Lukaku again, though goal no. 2 was much more about goalkeeper Alex Meret’s shocking howler than Lukaku’s obvious quality. Lukaku took what appeared to be nothing more than a speculative shot from near the corner of the box, only for Meret to watch it go through his hands and bounce over the goal line.
Napoli pulled a goal back through Arkadiusz Milik six minutes later, but it was the first time — and turned out to be one of a very few times — in which Napoli created a threatening scoring chance.
Lautaro Martinez restored Inter’s two-goal lead with an opportune strike following a defensive error in the 62nd minute, and that was the final blow to Napoli’s hopes of an upset on the day.
With 20 of 38 games still to be played, including a head-to-head matchup on March 1, Inter appear to be legitimate title contenders — perhaps the first in Juve’s near-decade of dominance — who will take the title race to the very end of the season. Napoli, meanwhile, sit 8th in the league table, 11 points off the Champions League places, after entering the season as one of three presumed title contenders.