Soccer-Inter extend lead atop Serie A with 4-0 win over Atalanta

Soccer Football - Serie A - Inter Milan v Atalanta - San Siro, Milan, Italy - February 28, 2024 Inter Milan's Lautaro Martinez celebrates scoring their second goal with teammates REUTERS/Daniele Mascolo

MILAN (Reuters) -Inter Milan cruised to a 4-0 home win against Atalanta in Serie A on Wednesday, extending their lead at the top of the standings to 12 points as they edge closer to a 20th league title.

Inter, who have won all eight of their league games in 2024, are on 69 points from 26 games, comfortably ahead of second-placed Juventus with 57 and rivals AC Milan in third on 53.

"It's nice at the moment, but we know that it was in the past month that we've gained these 12 points to move ahead," coach Simone Inzaghi told a press conference. "We have to stay focused."

Defender Matteo Darmian put Inter in front in the 26th minute with a low strike from the edge of the box before Lautaro Martinez doubled the advantage in first-half stoppage time, firing a powerful shot inside the left post.

Federico Dimarco added a third for Inter in the 54th minute, netting on the follow-up after Atalanta keeper Marco Carnesecchi saved a penalty from Martinez, and Davide Frattesi nodded home an Alexis Sanchez free kick to seal the win.

Europe-chasing Atalanta thought they had taken the lead in the 10th minute through Charles De Ketelaere, but his effort was ruled out for a handball in the buildup following a VAR check.

Nicolo Barella was then caught offside as he netted a stunning cross from his own half by Alessandro Bastoni before Darmian eventually gave Inter the lead following a mistake by Atalanta keeper Marco Carnesecchi.

Martinez played a neat pass and Carnesecchi was quicker to the ball than Henrikh Mkhitaryan. The goalkeeper, however, released the ball on the edge of the box and Darmian ruthlessly took advantage of his error, striking low into the net.

Martinez hit the bar shortly after, before finding the net in first-half stoppage time to double Inter's lead from a Benjamin Pavard cross.

The Argentine striker could have scored his second goal of the night after the break when Inter were awarded a penalty for a handball.

However, Carnesecchi denied him from the spot before Italy defender Dimarco made it 3-0 from the rebound and Frattesi wrapped up the three points for Inter in the 71st minute with a header.

"In the second half I didn't even see it that bad," said Atalanta coach Gian Piero Gasperini.

"Then we made a lot of changes and it became more of a training session than a match, it degenerated. The third goal I don't think it was a Serie A match."

Atalanta, who next week host Portuguese side Sporting in the Europa League last 16, are fifth with 46 points, two adrift of fourth-placed Bologna.

Champions Napoli thrashed struggling Sassuolo 6-1 helped by a Victor Osimhen hat-trick earlier on Wednesday.

(Reporting by Anita Kobylinska in GdanskEditing by Toby Davis)

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