Inter moved back to within a point of Napoli and Milan thanks to a 2-0 win at Venezia on Saturday, as Hakan Calhanoglu scored in a third consecutive Serie A game for the first time in his career.
Simone Inzaghi’s men defeated leaders Napoli last weekend to boost their title defence, and they never looked like dropping points in Venice.
Venezia, who were chasing a third successive Serie A win for the first time since 1962, failed to impose themselves in the first half and deservedly trailed at the break to Calhanoglu’s low drive.
Only Bayern Munich and Liverpool had scored more goals than Inter across the top five European leagues before the weekend. While that did not translate to a free-scoring exhibition this time, Inter finished Venezia off with a late Lautaro Martinez penalty to keep pressure on the top two ahead of their Sunday outings.
Despite dominating, Inter did not threaten the Venezia goal until the 30th minute when Sergio Romero leapt across his goal to keep Ivan Perisic’s header out.
Romero was helpless soon after, however, as Calhanoglu squeezed a skidding 25-yard shot just inside the left post.
Venezia almost levelled with their very first shot five minutes later, with Samir Handanovic tipping Mattia Aramu’s long-range piledriver over the crossbar.
Aramu went close from distance again just after the break, this time just missing the top-left corner after cutting in from the right wing.
Inter woke up again as Edin Dzeko tested Romero, before Ridgeciano Haps cleared a Milan Skriniar header off the line to keep Venezia in the game.
Romero made several more fine saves, but the visitors finally got the clincher at the death. Haps was deemed to have committed a handball in the box and Martinez confidently dispatched the resulting spot-kick.
What does it mean? Nerazzurri ensure Napoli win was not for nothing
It is often said that, in a title race, it is not the games against your rivals that ultimately decide the outcome of the season, rather the meetings with lowly opposition.
Had Inter dropped points in Venice, it would have almost meant their hard-fought defeat of Napoli had been for nothing last weekend.
This may not have been a classic but Inter largely managed the game very professionally.
Dimarco runs himself into the ground
Inter left wing-back Federico Dimarco was utterly tireless here and proved a potent weapon with his set-piece deliveries, laying on six key passes. No one on the pitch touched the ball more times than him (102) and he gave Inzaghi’s side real drive, ranking first for final-third entries (13).
Argentina forward Angel Correa is yet to truly find his stride since following coach Inzaghi from Lazio, with this being the latest example of an underwhelming outing. His 25 touches amounted to the fewest among Inter’s outfield players at the time of his 58th-minute withdrawal, which arrived without him recording a single shot.
Inter host Spezia on Wednesday, a day after Venezia go to Atalanta.