Inter put pressure on Crotone out of the gate but couldn’t find a quality chance. Instead, it was the visitors which looked the more dangerous side. Alessandro Bastoni was called into a huge block on a fizzing Junior Messias shot that surely would have found the back of the net in the 11th minute. Moments later Samir Handanovic came rushing out of his goal to shut down Pedro Pereira in a 1v1. Crotone couldn’t be kept out forever, though, and a wide-open Niccolo Zanellato headed home the ensuing corner kick for the first league goal of the new year.
The Nerazzurri looked stunned, but recovered soon enough and equalized in the 20th minute thanks to yet another Lautaro/Lukaku combination.
Inter 1-1 Crotone (Lautaro Martinez) pic.twitter.com/2x2VGwIWkP— InterVids (@VidsInter) January 3, 2021
Just over ten minutes later Inter found itself in the lead thanks to a Luca Marrone own goal, though if not for the defender’s ill-fated clearance, Lautaro was lurking for a brace.
The Nerazzurri’s lead wouldn’t last long, though. In the 35th minute Vidal took down Arkadiuz Reca in the box, and after checking VAR the referee gave Crotone a penalty. Vladimir Golemic made no mistake and the half ended all square. Inter was surprisingly unable to take control of the match and had 51% possession. Although it outshot Crotone ten to five, both teams had three on target and most important of all, two goals.
Like in the first half, Inter came out of the interval on the hunt for a goal. This time, though, the Nerazzurri’s efforts were rewarded in the 57th minute and Lautaro finally had his brace.
Inter 3-2 Crotone (Lautaro Martinez with a brace) pic.twitter.com/dLvqjrAc2Y— InterVids (@VidsInter) January 3, 2021
Inter was buoyed by the goal and put some distance between it and Crotone in the 64th minute. Lukaku, who had played a major role in the three previous goals, notched his 50th goal in an Inter jersey in only 70 appearances.
Inter 4-2 Crotone (Romelu Lukaku) pic.twitter.com/MX45m7pGlt— InterVids (@VidsInter) January 3, 2021
With victory more or less secured, the tempo slowed considerably. That didn’t stop Inter from piling on the score, and in the 78th minute, Lautaro tallied his first hat trick in Nerazzurri colors.
Inter 5-2 Crotone (Lautaro Martinez gets his first hat-trick for Inter) pic.twitter.com/0V9m12MnuW— InterVids (@VidsInter) January 3, 2021
Inter carved through Crotone once again in the 87th minute and this time it was Achraf Hakimi who ended up on the scoresheet thanks to a superb finish.
Inter 6-2 Crotone (Hakimi with another one) what a finish. pic.twitter.com/NT9xHBNo8n— InterVids (@VidsInter) January 3, 2021
The Nerazzurri couldn’t quite reach double digits within a ninety-minute timeframe, but six goals will have to suffice for now.
Inter’s win streak has reached eight in memorable and high-scoring fashion. The Nerazzurri looked like a fish out of water defensively in the first half, but eventually its’ high-powered attack proved too much for Crotone. Both Lautaro and Lukaku had incredible outings, totaling four goals and one assist between them (plus the Lautaro/own-goal), eight shots, and a very, very vibrant heatmap.
Handanovic - 6.5: Though conceding two goals to the third-worst attack in the league isn’t something to put on a resume, there wasn’t much Handanovic could have done either way. He was left out to dry on both Crotone goals, having to deal with a wide-open header and a spot-kick.
Bastoni - 7: Bastoni was once again in top form, though he played a particularly important part in the result. His incredible diving block on Messias early in the game kept out a sure Crotone goal while it was his pin-point ball over the top that Lukaku latched onto for Inter’s fourth.
de Vrij - 7: The Dutchman had an all-rounded game, winning six of eight duels and completing 96% of his passes.
Skriniar - 7: Skriniar wasn’t called into action very often (1 interception and 1 tackle were his only defensive actions), but he was superb on the ball. He ended the match with the fourth most touches and third most accurate passes (50/51).
Young - 6.5: Young had the third-lowest amount of touches from Inter starters that played at least 45 minutes but still managed 3 key passes. Overall a solid if not very active performance from Young, though having a left-back even half as effectual as Hakimi could do Inter wonders.
Vidal - 4: Vidal was Inter’s sole liability against Crotone, but what a liability he was. It was he who lost Zanellato on the opener before committing a clumsy foul for Crotone’s penalty. The Chilean’s interception in midfield did result in Inter’s second, but all in all it was a disastrous outing from Vidal before a halftime substitution.
Brozovic - 7.5: Brozovic was fantastic against Crotone. He engaged in a team-high 10 duels, winning 6. Furthermore, he made 2 interceptions, 4 tackles, and lead the team in touches (83). He also had 2 key asses and made 6 long balls. He and Barella are undoubtedly the Nerazzurri’s engine.
Barella - 7: Speaking of the Italian, Barella won 4/6 duels and had the “assist” on Luca Marrone’s own goal.
Hakimi - 7: Hakimi has continued to look his best over recent games, and his excellent finish against Crotone has brought his season total to five goals and four assists. Which, for a wingback, is a lot. He had a solid game throughout as well, winning 4 duels and 2 tackles.
Lautaro - 9: The Argentine barely put a foot wrong and perhaps should have had a fourth goal which was instead ruled an own goal. He’s now scored in each of his last two and an in-form Lautaro to relieve the burden on Lukaku is going to be vital to a Scudetto push.
Lukaku - 9: The Belgian’s strike partner may get all the headlines, but Lukaku was instrumental Sunday. Though he only officially had one goal and assist, Lukaku helped create Inter’s first three goals and then notched one of his own. With luck the injury that forced him off in the second half is nothing serious and he’ll be 100% soon enough.
Sensi - 6.5: Though he didn’t make much of a noticeable impact, Sensi brought another dimension to the Inter midfield when he entered at halftime. Hopefully we begin to see more of the Italian on the pitch in the near future, and subsequently, a bigger and bigger Sensi sized footprint on the game.
Conte - 7: The only qualm about the starting eleven could have been Young over Darmian (who tallied one assist and one key pass with a mere six touches), but Young did a satisfactory job as well. Bringing Vidal off at halftime was an excellent move and perhaps calling out the Chilean in the press will turn around his form.
Milan still managed to keep ahold of first place thanks to a 2-0 win at Benevento. But with the Rossoneri meeting Juventus Wednesday, Inter may have a chance to close the one-point gap when it visits Sampdoria midweek.