ROMELU Lukaku had the last laugh — and goal — as his Inter Milan side beat Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s AC Milan 3-0 in their biggest derby match in a decade.
The game took place almost a month after a heated spat between the two star players.
Lukaku set up Lautaro Martinez for an early opener and sealed the result in the 66th minute with Inter’s third. Martinez had doubled his tally early in the second half, during Milan’s best spell of the match.
Inter remained top but extended their advantage to four points over second-place Milan. Napoli could move to within six points of Milan, having played a match less, if they win at Atalanta later.
The stakes in the Milan derby were higher than they have been in the last 10 years. The last time Inter and Milan went into the Derby della Madonnina occupying the top two spots in the table was in 2011, when Milan was above Inter. The Rossoneri won that match and went on to win the league title — the last team other than Juventus to do so.
There were no supporters in the stadium because of coronavirus restrictions, but thousands of fans from both sides gathered outside to welcome the teams.
The match was even more highly charged because the last time the two sides met, on January 26 in the Italian Cup quarter-finals, Lukaku and Ibrahimovi were involved in a heated confrontation that is currently under investigation by the Italian football federation.
It was Lukaku who helped Inter get off to the perfect start, with less than five minutes on the clock. His first cross was charged down by a great block from Milan defender Simon Kjaer, but the ball came back out to Lukaku, who floated another cross in for Martinez to easily head into the top-right corner.
Milan’s first real chance came in the 15th when, following a goalmouth scramble, Ibrahimovic attempted an audacious back-heel shot that Inter goalkeeper Samir Handanovic had to dive to stop.
Theo Hernandez also fired just the wrong side of the left post for Milan, but it was Inter that went even closer.
Milan goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma saved Ivan Perisic’s shot, but the ball came out to Martinez, who fired over the bar from point-blank range.
Milan Skriniar headed Christian Eriksen’s free kick narrowly over the bar with the last action of the first half.
Milan appeared a side transformed after the break and Handanovic had to make three outstanding saves in quick succession in the opening couple of minutes to deny Ibrahimovic twice and then Sandro Tonali.
But Milan’s good work was undone in the 57th when, following a rapid counterattack, Perisic rolled the ball across for Martinez to tap into the bottom-left corner.
And Lukaku all but secured the win when he raced from near the half-way line before firing into the bottom-left corner.