Inter took a giant leap towards their first Scudetto in over a decade with a plucky win away to Bologna.
Romelu Lukaku’s first half strike allowed Antonio Conte’s men to capitalise on Milan and Juventus dropping points and move eight points clear at the Serie A summit.
A huge win for Inter as we enter the home straight. Here’s what we learned from the trip to the Renato Dall’Ara.
1. Alessandro Bastoni And Marcelo Brozovic “Finally” Suspended
After walking tight ropes over the past dozen games, both Marcelo Brozovic and Alessandro Bastoni picked up their fifth yellow cards of the season.
As a result, they will both miss Wednesday’s tie at home to Sassuolo.
Although highly frustrating, especially in Brozovic’s case as he earned his yellow trying to make up for a lazy mistake, it could be worse.
There was a time when both men sat on four yellows as key fixtures such as the Derby and the trip of Lazio to San Siro loomed. However, the trip of a blunt Sassuolo shouldn’t be as big of a task.
Inter should be able to cope without two of their key men.
2. The Frog Done Good
Andrea Rannochia is greeted often with mixed reviews from the Inter faithful but it can certainly be said that this version of the player is the best we have seen in some time.
Coming into the side in an emergency or when players need a rest sees the best of the former Bari centre back.
Other than getting a daft yellow, which was more a poor decision from the referee who let most similar fouls go unpunished, Rannochia had a solid game.
Training with top class defenders and not constantly being under the microscope in a ‘banter era’ defence seems to be allowing Andrea to give his best when called upon.
A popular figure in the dressing room too which may be sadly missed if his contract isn’t renewed in the summer.
3. Nicolo Barella And Romelu Lukaku Feeling The Pace
Both of these men need a big holiday in the summer…..oh wait.
Since Inter’s Europa League final defeat last August, both of these men have been in truly scintillating form.
However, on the back of an intense fixture list and yet more internationals with a miniature pre-season’s rest, these men are exhausted.
Lukaku’s still in the goals but his performance levels have dropped off and Barella seems to be running out of steam in games like never before.
Conte is heavily reliant on these men but surely a start from the bench on Wednesday wouldn’t be the worst idea given Inter’s points lead at the top now.
4. Achraf Hakimi Not At The Races
A poor performance by his standards from the Moroccan as the former Real Madrid man couldn’t put a foot right at the Dall’Ara.
Some timid attacking and a lack of link up play saw Hakimi put in arguably his worst performance in an Inter shirt.
A real match winner on his day but in games like these he becomes exposed for his shortcomings.
Given his tender age, he still has time to evolve into the finished article and to become that his decision making needs to be at the top of his improvement list.
5. Could Bologna Be The Turning Point?
With Juventus and Milan only rescuing fortunate draws, Inter moved two points clearer at the summit.
They now sit eight points ahead of Milan with a game in hand over them and twelve clear of current holders Juventus with the same games played.
With two home games this coming week against a patchy Sassuolo side and a doomed Cagliari, Inter could be heading into the final nine games more than eleven points clear at the top.
From there it would be hard to see them drop off.
A win on Saturday night when not at their best was a sign that Inter are ready to be champions.
With the other sides dropping points it felt like a key moment as it becomes more apparent with each game that it may well be Inter’s year.