Inter Milan extended their lead in Serie A by demolishing Monza 5-1 on Saturday, going five points ahead at the top, while Napoli beat Salernitana 2-1 on the last day.
Inter’s lead against Juventus was increased with goals from Hakan Calhanoglu and Lautaro Martinez, as well as a late score by Marcus Thuram.
“Monza are a good team with good players, but if we play like we did today, it’ll be hard for anyone to beat us,” Calhanoglu told Sky Sports.
Turkey captain Calhanoglu has flourished at Inter after being switched to a deeper midfield position by coach Simone Inzaghi, scoring 10 goals in all competitions this season.
“I’ve grown as a player, I have a new role which I like a lot and I always try to give my best for my teammates,” he said.
Inter now travels to Riyadh for the new, four-team Italian Super Cup, where they face Lazio in the semi-finals on Thursday.
A excursion to the skies Fiorentina will play the Super Cup at the end of the month before facing Juventus at the San Siro in early February, by which time their nearest rivals might be at the top of the table owing to having a game in hand.
Due to Super Cup obligations, Inter will not play what would have been next weekend’s home match against Atalanta until the end of next month.
However, if they continue to play as well as they did on Saturday, they should have nothing to fear from any opponent.
Calhanoglu scored a penalty for Inter in the 12th minute after Roberto Gagliardini handled Martinez’s header, and the visitors were two up seconds later.
Inter were whisked from one end of the field to the other in a fantastic team move that culminated with Martinez poking home from close range.
In the 29th minute, Monza’s Matteo Pessina had a header ruled out for the tiniest of offsides, and Calhanoglu sealed the points on the hour mark when he stroked in Thuram’s beautiful lay-off.
Pessina did score from the penalty spot nine minutes later, but the damage had already been done.
With six minutes left, Martinez converted his own penalty to bring his league total to 18 for the season, and Thuram completed a flawless evening with a magnificent solo goal.
“You can only compliment a great team, because they were brilliant tonight,” Monza coach Raffaele Palladino remarked.
“We lost a match against a really good side, but we need to clear our heads and just move on to the next game.”
Amir Rrahmani took advantage of poor Salernitana defense to score in stoppage time, lifting Napoli to sixth place, 20 points behind Inter.
After falling down in the 29th minute to a breathtaking Antonio Candreva goal, the hosts rallied, with Matteo Politano equalizing from the penalty spot at the conclusion of the first half before Rrahmani brought the house down.
Napoli are also two points behind fourth-placed Fiorentina, who play Udinese on Sunday for the last Champions League position.
“It was a real team win, a hallmark of this team last season but something that we haven’t seen too much of this year,” Mazzarri remarked.
The victory on Saturday gave joy to home supporters who had been watching a team that strolled to the historic Scudetto last season put up a poor championship defense.
But the three points came with a hefty slice of luck, as Politano’s equalizer came after a cheap foul from Federico Fazio on Giovanni Simeone, which was awarded following a VAR review.
Deep into additional time, Salernitana goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa collided with Fazio while attempting to collect Giacomo Raspadori’s free-kick, allowing the ball to wriggle to Rrahmani, who smashed home the game-winning goal.