MILAN: Antonio Conte hailed Romelu Lukaku’s progress since joining Inter Milan last season as the Belgian scored his seventh goal this campaign in a 2-0 Serie A win over Genoa.
Second half strikes from Belgium striker Lukaku and Danilo D’Ambrosio put Conte’s Inter third, ahead of Atalanta who fell 3-1 to Sampdoria.
“Romelu is now a different player, compared to a year ago, hes improved in every respect,’” said Conte after Inter bounced back after a 2-1 derby defeat to AC Milan and a 2-2 Champions League stalemate with Borussia Moenchengladbach.
“In the past, I said that he was a rough diamond, which is why he was always someone I wanted to work with.
“He’s improving on a daily basis and adding quality to his game.
“He’s also scoring on a consistent basis.”
After being on the back foot in the first half, Conte brought reinforcements off the bench, with Nicolo Barella coming on for Christian Eriksen and Achraf Hakimi replacing Ivan Perisic, just hours after the Moroccan defender tested negative for coronavirus.
Barella set up former Manchester United forward Lukaku to open the scoring with his fifth league goal this season in the 64th minutes, with his other two coming against Moenchengladbach.
D’Ambrosio nodded in the second with 10 minutes to go.
“We controlled the match from the very beginning,” added Conte.
Inter move up to third, two points behind leaders AC Milan, who host Roma on Monday, and one point ahead of Atalanta, fourth after a second straight defeat.
Atalanta are level on points with Claudio Ranieri's Sampdoria who followed up wins over Fiorentina and Lazio with an impressive victory in Bergamo.
“I told the lads I wanted to see courage against Lazio and Atalanta,” said Ranieri.
“We gradually gained confidence and were ready when the opportunities came.”
Fabio Quagliarella opened the scoring after a quarter of an hour with his fourth goal in as many games, but the veteran striker was denied a second from the penalty spot.
Danish midfielder Morten Thorsby added a second before the hour mark, with Jakub Jankto sealing the points in injury time.
Colombian striker Duvan Zapata had halved the deficit for Atalanta with 10 minutes to go from the penalty spot.
Gian Piero Gasperini’s Atalanta scored 13 goals in their first three matches, but have now conceded seven in two games after losing 4-1 at Napoli last weekend.
“There are games where the coach feels responsible for the result. Today I did a bit of experimenting, it was a sort of construction site,” said Gasperini.
“You want to bring in new players but when you play at high levels you can’t do too many experiments.”
After their loss in Naples, Atalanta had opened their Champions League campaign with a 4-0 win at Danish club Midtjylland.
Gasperini made seven changes to his side with Sam Lammers and Josip Ilicic starting, the latter playing at home for the first time in over three months.
Atalanta captain Papu Gomez was denied an early goal, before Mikkel Damsgaard set up Quagliarella to score.
A Johan Mojica handball gave Sampdoria the chance for a second but Marco Sportiello kept out Quagliarella’s effort from the spot.
Thorsby got his head to a Jankto cross for Sampdoria’s second before Zapata revived home hopes, converting his penalty after Keita Balde fouled the Colombian.
Senegalese Keita made up for his error, sending Jankto through on goal to net a third two minutes into injury time.
In Rome, Lazio got their first home win this season, 2-1 against Bologna, thanks to goals from Luis Alberto and Ciro Immobile, who is now the second highest goalscorer in Lazio’s history.
Luis Alberto’s stunning solo run through from midfield put Lazio ahead after 54 minutes and Immobile headed in from close range with a quarter of an hour to go to score his 128th Lazio goal, one more than iconic forward Beppe Signori.
Lorenzo De Silvestri pulled one back in injury time before Bologna fell to their fourth defeat in five games.
Champions Juventus play at home against Verona on Sunday. – AFP