After their draw at Genoa (1-1) to conclude 2023, Inter began 2024 with a laborious, and even controversial, victory in front of their home crowd at San Siro. “Our last two matches are not our best,” admitted Simone Inzaghi, Inter coach, on the DAZN platform. “We still managed a good first leg, with a good total of points (48, Editor's note), but the championship is still long and there is a team that is keeping up with our pace.” At the halfway mark, Inter is in the lead with five points ahead of Juventus Turin who face the red lantern, Salernitana, on Sunday, while AC Milan, 3rd, is already relegated to twelve points and the champion in title, Naples, lags in 8th place, twenty points. But the winter champion, as the team which completes the first leg in first place is designated in Italy, has given some worrying signs of slowing down in recent weeks, such as its elimination in the Italian Cup, in which Inter had won the last two editions, from the round of 16 by Bologna (2-1 ap). “There are things to improve,” admitted captain Lautaro Martinez. But this victory is a strong signal sent to other teams,” he preferred to remember.
Returning after two weeks of absence due to an adductor injury, the Argentine striker gave Inter the advantage with his 16th goal in the league in the 13th minute, ideally launched in the middle by Henrikh Mkhitaryan . The Milanese continued to dominate, but they were caught by Verona who equalized thanks to Thomas Henry by catching a cross from Duda at the near post (74th).
In added time, the match became crazy: Davide Frattesi, who came on shortly before to replace Benjamin Pavard, gave Inter the advantage by taking, alone in front of the goal, a long shot diverted with difficulty by the goalkeeper from Verona (90 3rd). To the great anger of the Verona players and managers, the goal was validated despite a foul committed by a Milan player on Duda.
Hellas, 18th (14 pts), did not give up and even had the opportunity to equalize in the 100th minute, but Henry's penalty was repelled by the right post of Yann Sommer, beaten. Being at the top of the Italian Championship at the halfway point bodes well for Inter: of the 91 previous “winter champions”, 62 were crowned champions at the end of the season.
“We once again showed that we had a fantastic group (...) We didn't have a great match, but it's the kind of victory we need to go to the end,” relished Frattesi. Fiorentina, which could come back to match AC Milan in the event of success, concluded its first leg with a 1-0 defeat at Sassuolo. La Viola remains 4th (33 pts), while Sassuolo, winner this season of Inter and Juventus, jumped to 14th place.