Edin Dzeko netted a last-gasp winner to help Inter Milan beat COVID-hit Venezia 2-1 and move five points clear at the top of Serie A 2021-22. Nicolò Barella had canceled out Thomas Henry's shock opener for Venezia in the first half. (More Football News)
Defending champion Inter consolidated its lead ahead of the eagerly anticipated derby match against second-place AC Milan after the international break. Venezia remained two points above the relegation zone.
Fourth-place Atalanta played at Lazio later Saturday. Inter players were wearing special edition jerseys to mark Chinese New Year, with the names of the players in Chinese lettering. The club is owned by Chinese retail giant Suning.
Venezia was depleted by the coronavirus and made the trip without eight players and several members of staff, including coach Paolo Zanetti, who had all tested positive for COVID-19.
New Serie A rules that came into place recently state that a match will be postponed if nine players out of a list of 25 squad members are out with the virus.
But it was the visitors who took a surprise lead in the 19th minute when Ethan Ampadu whipped in a fantastic cross to the back post and Henry headed it in off the underside of the crossbar.
Venezia defended well and it took Inter until five minutes from halftime to equalize. Visiting goalkeeper Luca Lezzerini did brilliantly to parry Ivan Perišic's volley from close range but Barella slid in to fire home the rebound.
Venezia was left fuming as it felt there was a foul by Inter forward Džeko on Marco Modolo in the buildup — leaving the defender with a black eye — but the goal was awarded after a VAR check.
Referee Matteo Marchetti turned to VAR again on the stroke of halftime for a potential handball in Venezia's penalty area but nothing was given.
Inter wasted several chances to take the lead in the second half. Just when it appeared as if the Nerazzuri would pay for their profligacy, Džeko — who had been guilty of most of those misses — headed in Denzel Dumfries' cross in the final minute.
Genoa showed clear improvement in its first match under new coach Alexander Blessin in a 0-0 draw against Udinese. Blessin, who replaced the fired Andriy Shevchenko on Wednesday, is Genoa's third coach of the season.
Genoa was aggressive from the start although hopes of getting all three points diminished 11 minutes from time, when Andrea Cambiaso was shown a second yellow card for dissent following a booking for a foul. Genoa remained five points from safety.