Napoli’s championship defence got back on track thanks to a brace from Khvicha Kvaratskhelia and a hat trick from Lautaro Martinez as Inter Milan rolled to a 3-0 win against Torino on Saturday.
Inter moved one point ahead of AC Milan, who will visit third-placed Juventus on Sunday night, thanks to a goal from Argentina striker Martinez in the 67th minute in an easy win in Turin.
After only nine games, the 26-year-old already has a five-goal lead over closest challenger Victor Osimhen in the scoring charts and, at his present rate, would shatter the record single-season haul of 36 goals established by Gonzalo Higuain in 2016.
Martinez has taken centre stage in Inter’s assault since Edin Dzeko and Romelu Lukaku left in the summer, and the club now leads Serie A in goals scored with 24.
“Lauti only got back from South America a day and a half ago, but he is in great shape and he gets all the support he could need from the team,” said Simone Inzaghi, the team’s coach.
Hakan Calhanoglu scored in stoppage time from the penalty spot after Marcus Thuram had put the team on the board eight minutes before Martinez’s goal by sweeping home Denzel Dumfries’ low pass for his third goal in the league.
Thuram, a forward for France, has gotten off to a fantastic start in Italy, where he was born while his World Cup-winning father Lilian was a member of the star-studded Parma side that won the UEFA Cup in 1999.
Thuram responded with a gleeful “very well” when asked how he is adjusting to life with Inter.
“This is a great team, and I’m really happy to be able to contribute,” DAZN quoted him as saying.
When Inter face Salzburg in the first of two Champions League Group D meetings against the Austrians on Tuesday, Inzaghi will likely start both Martinez and Thuram.
At the San Siro, Inter will have tougher opposition than they did against Torino, who have gone four games without scoring a goal.
After a collision with Nicolo Barella, defender Perr Schuurs was stretchered off with a knee injury and is expected to miss a significant amount of time for Ivan Juric’s injury-plagued squad.
Torino’s nine points have them in 14th place, a point and a spot below Sassuolo, who were thrashed 2-0 by Lazio late on Sunday.
When Kvaratskhelia attacks
Napoli beat Verona 3-1 despite missing top scorer Osimhen due to injury thanks to goals from wing wizard Kvaratskhelia in both halves. Matteo Politano scored the opener in the 27th minute.
Rudi Garcia’s squad is now in fifth place, five points behind Inter, after a rough start to the season. However, after a dominant performance at the Stadio Bentegodi, they are tied for first place with Fiorentina and Juventus.
French coach Garcia, who took over for Luciano Spalletti after Italy’s World Cup exit, has been under fire since he was hired in the summer. However, he received public support from owner Aurelio De Laurentiis on Thursday and was pleased by the opportunities that arose without Osimhen.
“Today, we accomplished our goals. It’s safer if nobody goes outside, but I wasn’t scared,” Garcia added.
“We’ve still got great quality going forward, we scored three times and could have easily got more.”
Kvaratskhelia has had a hard time coming back to the form that made him a star of last year’s championship team, but he looked like his old self on Saturday.
He slammed in a low finish at Lorenzo Montipo’s near post two minutes before halftime to give Napoli a 2-0 lead.
The 22-year-old added a third goal nine minutes after halftime, deftly dribbling past Giangiacomo Magnani before rolling the ball into the net for his third league goal of the season.
Verona, coached by Marco Baroni, rallied with a goal from Dark Lazovic but still lost 5-1 and dropped to 16th place, four points above the relegation zone.