Inter tighten grip on top four with win over Lecce

Inter Milan players celebrate after scoring a goal against Lecce in Serie A.
Inter Milan players celebrate after scoring a goal against Lecce in Serie A.
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Internazionale grabbed a comfortable 2-0 home win against Lecce in Serie A on Sunday, tightening their grip on a Champions League spot.

Inter, who suffered a 1-0 defeat at Bologna last weekend which virtually ended their slim hopes of winning the title, moved back to second in the standings on 50 points from 25 games.

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They are two points above third-placed Lazio and three above AC Milan in fourth, but remain 15 points behind leaders Napoli.

Goalkeeper Andre Onana saved the hosts from conceding in the 17th minute when Lecce forward Assan Ceesay dribbled past their defence and struck towards the right post from the edge of the box.

Inter responded three minutes later through striker Edin Dzeko, who met a corner but sent his header wide of the right post.

The hosts took the lead just before the half-hour mark when Nicolo Barella tricked Lecce defenders inside the box and squared the ball to Henrikh Mkhitaryan, setting him up for a brilliant first-time finish into the top right corner.

"We were coming off an ugly defeat like the one in Bologna, so there was a lot of talk about it," Inter coach Simone Inzaghi told a news conference. "We responded well and we have to continue at this pace.

"We played an excellent game with the right approach and we didn't lower our intensity. The second goal made it easier for us. It was a deserved victory against a team that bothered many."

Lautaro Martinez doubled Inter's lead eight minutes into the second half after he was served a perfect cross inside the box by Denzel Dumfries, which the Argentine striker converted with a superb finish inside the right post.

Simone Inzaghi's men have now triumphed in each of Lautaro's last 14 goal-scoring home outings in Serie A.

Inter, who were without Joaquin Correa, Federico Dimarco and Milan Skriniar through injuries, could have scored again in stoppage time but a low shot by Dzeko was cleared by the visitors' defence.

Only AS Roma (five) and Barcelona (one) have conceded fewer goals than Inter (six) at home this season in the top five European leagues.

Lecce, who appeared timid in attack and managed only one shot on target throughout the game, remain 15th, nine points above the drop zone. They next host 11th-placed Torino on March 12.

Inter travel to lowly Spezia on Friday, before they visit Porto in the second leg of their Champions League last-16 clash on March 14.