MILAN ⸺ Inter Milan moved seven points clear at the top of Serie A on Sunday as Romelu Lukaku scored after 32 seconds and bagged an assist in a 3-0 win over midtable Genoa.
The Belgian striker drove through the heart of the visiting defence and fired in his 18th league goal of the season to register his club’s second fastest Serie A strike since Opta started taking records in 2004.
Lukaku teed up Matteo Darmian for Inter’s second after 69 minutes and was again involved for their third, when his shot was saved but headed in on the rebound by substitute Alexis Sanchez.
“We’re top of the table and that’s a good feeling for us,” Lukaku told Sky Italia.
“We mustn’t give up, last year we lost some of these games but this year we’re growing.
“These matches are a chance for us to send a message to the other teams, but the season is long.”
The result leaves league leaders Inter seven points ahead of second-placed AC Milan, who play AS Roma later on Sunday, and 10 points clear of Juventus in third.
Genoa, whose seven-match unbeaten league run came to an end, are 13th with 26 points.
With Milan facing a tricky trip to the capital and Hellas Verona holding Juve to a draw on Saturday, this was a big chance for Inter to pull away from their main rivals for the league title.
Lukaku powered through to score inside the opening minute and the hosts never looked like relinquishing their lead.
Nicolo Barella’s curling strike hit the bar and Lukaku had a powerful effort saved by Mattia Perin, before Darmian broke Genoa’s resistance with a drilled effort.
Sanchez’s header wrapped up the points moments after the Chilean came on, but he had to wait for VAR to overturn an incorrect offside call.
Perin was to thank for keeping the score down as he denied Danilo D’Ambrosio and Sanchez with superb diving saves late on.
It was only the second league game Genoa have lost since coach Davide Ballardini replaced Rolando Maran in December, while Inter have won five Serie A matches in a row, conceding one goal in that time.
Earlier, Atalanta moved into fourth place and drew level with Juve on 46 points after a 2-0 win at Sampdoria, thanks to goals from Ruslan Malinovskyi and Robin Gosens.
New Cagliari coach Leonardo Semplici enjoyed a debut to remember as he oversaw a 2-0 win away to bottom side Crotone to end a 16-match winless league run stretching back to Nov. 7.
A Leonardo Pavoletti header and Joao Pedro penalty earned victory, leaving the Sardinian side 18th with 18 points, two adrift of safety.
A late Ilija Nestorovski header gave Udinese a 1-0 win over Fiorentina that moved them into 12th place, three points ahead of the Viola in 15th.
Reporting by Alasdair Mackenzie; Editing by Christian Radnedge; Reuters