Inter Milan’s players joyously celebrated as if they had won the league. They might not have — yet — but coach Simone Inzaghi took a potentially decisive step toward his first Serie A title on Sunday. An own-goal by Bianconeri defender Federico Gatti in chaotic circumstances was enough to hand league leader Inter a 1-0 win in the Derby d’Italia and lift it four points above second-place Juventus.
Both teams were eager to highlight that nothing would be decided at San Siro, with 15 rounds remaining, but Inter also has a game in hand — at home to Atalanta on Feb. 28.
The Nerazzurri players jubilantly danced in front of their fans, who sang raucously and set off flares and waved flags. Hakan Çalhanoğlu, one of the best players on the field, even took off his shirt in celebration.
“I liked how the team played tonight, the team was really good, we played very well technically and we were always focused,” Inzaghi said
“It’s an important step but absolutely not decisive — as I said before the match — but clearly it’s a great night, in front of our own fans who really helped us right from the moment we got to the stadium.”
Massimiliano Allegri’s Juventus will now be nervously looking over its shoulder, with AC Milan only four points behind.
“It was a difficult match, we knew it would be, against a team like Inter that deserves its first place in the league,” Allegri said. “It was an important step in our path of growth.
“We can improve but it’s been a difficult week, we need to now work calmly to get back to winning ways.”
Inter started brighter on Sunday and should have taken the lead in the 25th minute. Çalhanoğlu played a wonderful, crossfield ball over the top to Federico Dimarco and he crossed for Marcus Thuram, who appeared to be through on goal before a perfectly timed, last-ditch tackle from Bremer.
Juventus went as close at the other end shortly after as Weston McKennie strode downfield before passing to an unmarked Dušan Vlahović but the in-form forward’s first touch was horrible, allowing Benjamin Pavard to get in the block for a corner.
Inter took the lead eight minutes from the break. Nicolò Barella whipped in a cross from the right. Pavard missed the ball with an overhead kick and it went through to Thuram for an attempted diving header but instead it bounced in off Gatti’s chest.
Inter started the second half just as it had begun the first and Dimarco drilled narrowly wide of the post before Çalhanoğlu thumped the right upright.
Juventus also had chances to level in an end-to-end second period and Vlahović’s overhead kick went narrowly over the bar.
FIGHT FOR FOURTH
Charles De Ketelaere is finally showing the form that saw AC Milan shell out over 30 million euros ($32 million) on the Belgian youngster.
De Ketelaere never fulfilled his promise at Milan and was loaned to Atalanta for this season. He scored two goals on Sunday to help Atalanta beat rival Lazio 3-1 and consolidate fourth spot.
The 22-year-old converted a penalty in the first half and showed his confidence in the second with a delicious feint past his marker before driving a shot into the bottom near corner to put Atalanta 3-0 up.
That took De Ketelaere’s tally to seven in his past nine matches. He didn’t score at all for Milan last season.
Mario Pašalić scored the opener for a dominant Atalanta side. Lazio was looking to replace Atalanta in fourth but didn’t really get into gear until the final 10 minutes, with Ciro Immobile converting a penalty in the 84th.
It is a tight battle for fourth and Atalanta moved three points above Bologna and four above Roma and Napoli, with Fiorentina and Lazio a point further back.
Napoli kept up the pressure as two late goals saw it fight back to win 2-1 at home to relegation-threatened Hellas Verona, with Khvicha Kvaratskhelia netting the winner three minutes from time.
Diego Coppola had headed the visitors in front in the 72nd but Verona was undone seven minutes later by a former player as Cyril Ngonge — who only left the club last month — saw a shot deflected into the back of the net. Ngonge didn’t celebrate and it later went down as an own-goal by Verona defender Paweł Dawidowicz.
Also, bottom club Salernitana drew 0-0 at Torino.