Lukaku double keeps Inter top after Ronaldo’s first Serie A hat-trick

MILAN (AFP) – Romelu Lukaku scored twice as Inter Milan held on to top spot in Serie A on Monday night with a 3-1 win over Napoli to keep the pressure on Juventus who earlier swept past Cagliari with Cristiano Ronaldo netting his first hat-trick in the Italian top flight.

Antonio Conte’s Inter ended their 23-year wait for a league win in Naples to stay in pole position, level on points with Juventus after 18 games, but ahead on goal difference.

Lazio are third, six points adrift but with a game in hand, after stretching their winning run in the league to nine matches last Sunday with a 2-1 victory over Brescia.

“It’s an important victory, winning away to Napoli is never easy,” said Conte after his 100th Serie A win as a coach but first in Naples.

“Napoli have in recent years always been behind Juventus, while Inter was a long way back. This year we have reduced the gap.”

ABOVE & BELOW: Juventus’ forward Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates after scoring his third goal against Cagliari; and Inter Milan’s forward Romelu Lukaku shoots to score his second goal as Napoli’s defender Giovanni Di Lorenzo defends. PHOTOS: AFP

Inter’s three goals all came from mistakes from Napoli, runners-up the past two seasons but only eighth this term.

Lukaku broke through on 14 minutes with a powerful solo run through the Napoli defence, with goalkeeper Alex Meret fumbling the second into goal in the 33rd minute.

Polish striker Arkadiusz Milik pulled a goal back for Napoli four minutes before the break.

But Lautaro Martinez added the third after the hour mark, following another mix-up in the Napoli defence, to give Inter their first win at the Stadio San Paolo since October 1997.

“We made lots of mistakes and scored three goals on our own,” said Napoli coach Gennaro Gattuso.

“The lads are worried because they are used to challenging for the Scudetto and this year it’s like this.”

In Turin, Ronaldo struck for the fifth consecutive league game as the champions bounced back from their Italian Super Cup defeat by Lazio.

“Amazing feeling to kick-off 2020 with a hat-trick and a victory,” tweeted Ronaldo, who brought his league tally to 13 goals.

Ronaldo, 34, broke the deadlock just after the interval.

The Portuguese striker added a second from the penalty spot on 67 minutes then set up substitute Gonzalo Higuain nine minutes from time, before completing his hat-trick a minute later.