Milan Skriniar bailed out goalkeeper Samir Handanovic and maintained Inter’s winning run in a 2-1 victory at Hellas Verona to keep the pressure on title rivals Milan.
The Nerazzurri were made to work for their seventh straight Serie A success – a result that took them two points above their city neighbours, at least until the Rossoneri hosted Lazio later on Wednesday.
Skriniar’s 69th-minute header proved decisive after Handanovic had gifted an equaliser to Ivan Ilic, cancelling out Lautaro Martinez’s second-half opener.
The defender’s first Serie A goal since February 2018 brought to a close a promising first section of the season for Antonio Conte’s side, able to take in the Milan match and enjoy Christmas regardless, firmly back in the Scudetto hunt.
A stale first half did not produce a chance of note until the 26th minute when Federico Dimarco got in on the left but found Handanovic to be his equal from a tight angle.
Giangiacomo Magnani enjoyed his physical battle with Romelu Lukaku, but a slack pass set Inter away and the striker squared for Martinez to stab goalwards and draw a sharp save from Marco Silvestri.
Verona could not keep the Argentina international at bay again six minutes after half-time as he ran across Matteo Lovato to meet Achraf Hakimi’s cross and aim a volley beyond the goalkeeper and in off the post.
An inexplicable error let the home side back into the match, however, as Handanovic dropped a simple Marco Faraoni centre and Ilic was alert enough to beat Skriniar to the loose ball inside the six-yard box.
If Handanovic looked to his centre-back to share the blame, Skriniar responded in impressive fashion with a towering header that left Silvestri rooted and restored an Inter lead they this time would not relinquish.
It was the visitors who looked most likely to add to the scoreline, with Lukaku heavily involved during the closing stages, only for an offside flag in the final second denied him his goal.