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Inter Milan 3-2 Atalanta: Nerazzurri seal top-four finish
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Romelu Lukaku celebrates his early opener against Atalanta
Romelu Lukaku celebrates his early opener against Atalanta

Inter secured Champions League qualification in their penultimate game of the Serie A season, dealing a fatal blow to Atalanta's own top-four hopes with a 3-2 win at San Siro.

The Nerazzurri – finalists in Europe's premier club competition this term – stormed into a two-goal lead within just two minutes and 49 seconds after Romelu Lukaku and Nicolo Barella were on target. 

Atalanta needed a result to keep their slim hopes of a top-four finish alive, and they were handed a lifeline by Mario Pasalic before the interval on Saturday.

Yet Inter added a deserved third through Lautaro Martinez after the break, making Andre Onana's late own goal a mere Atalanta consolation, as the Nerazzurri moved eight points clear of their fifth-placed visitors.

Lukaku only needed 39 seconds to put Inter ahead, timing his run from Martinez's throughball before rounding Marco Sportiello and tapping into an empty net.

Atalanta found themselves further behind by the three-minute mark, Barella hammering a rebound into the roof of the net after Sportiello twice saved from Federico Dimarco.

Hakan Calhanoglu was denied a third by the offside flag when he netted with a ferocious volley, before Onana was forced into action by Rasmus Hojlund and Teun Koopmeiners.

Atalanta halved the arrears nine minutes before half-time, Pasalic hooking a finish beyond Onana following a goalmouth scramble.

Calhanoglu drew a flying save from Sportiello as Atalanta wilted after the interval, Inter managing the game in typically assured fashion.

Martinez stretched Inter's lead further when Marcelo Brozovic teed up a tap-in 13 minutes from time, before Luis Muriel's powerful long-range strike deflected in off the unfortunate Onana as the Nerazzurri just held on for victory.

What does it mean? Job done for Nerazzurri

Only a few short weeks ago, the prospect of one of this season's Champions League finalists being absent from the competition next term was a very real one.

Yet a run of six wins from seven games (L1), coupled with Juventus' 10-point deduction and the shortcomings of fellow European hopefuls Atalanta and Roma, has propelled Inter to qualification with a game to spare.

Having followed up Wednesday's Coppa Italia triumph with another crucial victory, Simone Inzaghi's men can treat next week's trip to Torino as a mere warm-up for their Istanbul showpiece with Manchester City.

Flying Inter start pays off

Inter could hardly have wished for a better start at San Siro, with Barella putting daylight between the teams before three minutes were up.

The Nerazzurri scored twice within the first three minutes of a Serie A match for the first time since January 5, 1941, when Enrico Candiani and Attilio Demaria were on target against Roma.

Martinez ends memorable week on a high

As has so often been the case this season, Martinez stepped up when Inter needed him most in midweek, netting twice to turn the Coppa Italia final on its head and hand Inzaghi's men the trophy.

Martinez was in imperious form again here, claiming a goal and an assist as he created four chances for his team-mates, a tally only matched by the industrious Brozovic among Inter players.

Key Opta facts:

- Martinez is the fourth player to score more than 20 goals in each of the last two seasons in Europe's top five leagues, after Erling Haaland, Robert Lewandowski and Kylian Mbappe.

- Inter have scored in 30 of their 37 games in Serie A this season, no team has done so more often.

- Atalanta have lost 66 matches against Inter in Serie A (W24 D34), only losing as many against Juventus (also 66) in the Italian top flight.

- Atalanta have conceded at least one goal in each of their last seven away league games, last conceding in more consecutive such matches in October 2020 (run of 8).

- Lukaku scored against Atalanta after just 39 seconds, the fastest goal for Inter in Serie A this campaign.

What's next?

Inter conclude their Serie A season at Torino next Sunday, with Atalanta hosting Monza on the same day.


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