On his Inter Serie A debut, the former Manchester United striker, Romelu Lukaku scored as the reign of Antonio Conte started with an amazing 4-0 win over Lecce in San Siro.
Club-record signing Lukaku started up front on Monday with former captain Mauro Icardi left out of Conte’s squad amid continued uncertainty over his future at the club.
Marcelo Brozovic and Stefano Sensi struck excellent goals in the space of four first-half minutes then Lukaku snaffled a rebound for his maiden Inter goal.
Promoted Lecce’s day went from bad to worse when substitute Diego Farias rightly saw red for a terrible tackle on another new Inter arrival Nicolo Barella, before Antonio Candreva’s 84th-minute stunner from range.
Inter, who had to replace Stefan de Vrij with Andrea Ranocchia after the Dutchman’s injury in the warm-up, took time to find their feet but scored the first goal of the Conte era in the 21st minute.
Brozovic bent home a beauty from just outside the area and it was soon 2-0 thanks to another excellent strike, as Sensi scored on his first appearance.
The midfielder, who joined Inter on loan from Sassuolo in July, advanced into space and arrowed a 20-yard drive into the bottom-left corner.
Marco Calderoni thumped a shot just wide as Lecce briefly threatened early in the second half but a long-range Lautaro Martinez shot was spilled by debutant goalkeeper Gabriel and former Manchester United striker Lukaku reacted quickest to slot home the loose ball on the hour mark.
Inter were cruising thereafter and Conte replaced Matias Vecino with Barella, who was the victim of an awful lunge that saw Farias dismissed in the 76th minute.
Matteo Politano who came in as a substitute ruled out a fine goal for Lukaku to be offside but Candreva added late gloss to the scoreline with a thunderbolt of 30 yards ripping into the top-left corner.
Through the arrival of Conte, a three-time Scudetto-winning coach with the Bianconeri, Inter is commonly supported as the most likely contenders to usurp Juventus.
He used his typical system of three at the back and although Inter initially showed signs of nerves they went on to dominate Fabio Liverani’s side, who almost certainly face a relegation battle after successive promotions.
Having lost his place at Old Trafford last term, there were suggestions an old-school style operator like Lukaku could find himself left behind as elite European teams seek more mobile strikers to lead the line.
But Conte has always preferred a strong “reference” point for his attack and Lukaku fits that billing, with the Belgium international impressing when he dropped deep to link the play and showing a poacher’s instinct to open his Nerazzurri account.
Gabriel couldn’t do anything about the first two goals of Inter, but any slim hopes of a Lecce fightback died when he pushed Martinez’s effort back into the danger zone. The former AC Milan keeper won’t have happy memories of his return to San Siro.
– Conte became the third Inter coach to win his first Serie A game with the Nerazzuri by a four-goal margin after Giuseppe Meazza and Helenio Herrera.
– Brozovic has scored at least one goal in each of his six Serie A seasons; he found the net at San Siro for the first time since a 4-0 win over Cagliari in April 2018.
– Lukaku is the third Belgian player to score with Inter in Serie A, after Enzo Scifo and Nainggolan.
– Samir Handanovic reached 200 wins in Serie A.
Conte’s side will return to action on Sunday with a trip to Cagliari, who signed Radja Nainggolan on loan during the close season, while Lecce will hope for a fairer test of their top-flight mettle when they host Verona on the same day.