MILAN: Second-placed Inter Milan needed second-half goals from Achraf Hakimi and leading scorer Romelu Lukaku to overcome stubborn resistance from Spezia as they beat the Serie A newcomers 2-1 on Sunday.
Inter’s sixth successive league win kept Antonio Conte’s side one point behind leaders AC Milan, who won 2-1 at Sassuolo. Inter, who have lost only once in the league this season, have 30 points from 13 games.
Conte conceded that the fixture marathon was taking its toll.
“This is our sixth league win in a row and we need this kind of consistency. We knew the match would be complicated against a very organised team. We didn’t give much away but we didn’t create much either, in the first half,” he said.
“But you have to remember that this is the ninth match of this series (since the last international break) and there is a bit of tiredness creeping in, there’s no point in hiding it. But we have to finish this sequence of games in the best possible way.”
Apart from early efforts from Lukaku and Ashley Young, Inter were lethargic in the first half but came to life after Stefano Sensi was brought on as a substitute at halftime.
Spezia, making their Serie A debut this season, held out until the 52nd minute when Hakimi latched onto Lautaro Martinez’s pass, sped away and scored with a shot which appeared to catch goalkeeper Ivan Provedel off his guard.
Lukaku added the second from a penalty in the 71st minute, his 11th league goal of the season, after M’Bala Nzola’s handball.
Inter appeals were initially waved away but the referee changed his mind after reviewing the incident on the pitchside monitor.
Roberto Piccoli pulled one back for the visitors in stoppage time, but too late to threaten Inter’s win.
Struggling Torino threw away another lead when they were held 1-1 at home by Bologna.
Simone Verdi put Torino ahead from a free kick in the 69th minute which was helped into the net by Bologna goalkeeper Angelo Da Costa, but Roberto Soriano levelled nine minutes later.
Benevento pushed Genoa deeper into trouble with a 2-0 win thanks to second half goals from Roberto Insigne, the brother of Napoli captain Lorenzo, and Marco Sau, who won and converted a penalty.
Torino and Genoa both have seven points, one more than bottom-of-the table Crotone, who lost at Sampdoria on Saturday.