Mauro Icardi brace lifts Inter Milan into Serie A's top half
Mauro Icardi scored twice as Inter Milan climbed into the top half of the Serie A table with a convincing 3-0 victory over Palermo.
The struggling Italian giants have been languishing in the lower reaches since the autumn but closed to within a point of eighth-placed Palermo thanks to a brace from Icardi and Fredy Guarin's first-half strike.
It was surprise package Palermo's first game without managing to score since late October as Inter's defence dealt expertly with the threat posed by their 11-goal striker Paulo Dybala.
The Nerazzurri looked sharp from the off and carved out a great chance in the seventh minute.
From a free-kick, January signing Xherdan Shaqiri picked out Juan Jesus' head at the far post, but Stefano Sorrentino flew across his goalmouth to punch the ball to safety.
Inter composed themselves and pressed on towards notching the opener.
Shaqiri again provided the pass, this time from a corner, and Guarin was well-placed to nod the ball over Sorrentino's shoulders and into the net.
Palermo bit back in the 25th minute as Luca Rigoni snaffled Achraf Lazaar's cross before racing past Andrea Ranocchia only to clip wide from two yards out.
Dybala looked keen to equalise with a left-footed effort that fizzed wide, and the sparkle soon went out of the half when Yuto Nagatomo suffered an injury before being replaced by Dodo.
Palermo launched an all-out siege on the Inter goal when play resumed but Samir Handanovic made a miracle save on Dybala before Franco Vazquez clattered the post and the former striker shot wide.
Inter replied by hitting the post through Icardi and then the Palermo crossbar through centre-back Ranocchia.
The Nerazzurri used the forward momentum better and extended their lead on 65 minutes.
Goalscorer turned provider as Guarin's cross was nodded down by Rodrigo Palacio, leaving Icardi to control the ball before rifling a daisy-cutter past Sorrentino.
The Argentinian could have converted brace immediately as he shrugged off his marker to head over the bar from a corner, and Sorrentino had to think fast to take the ball off Palacio's feet soon afterwards.
With two minutes remaining, Icardi did score Inter's third to rubber-stamp the morale-boosting result.
Guarin once again provided the cross and the former Sampdoria striker gave Sorrentino no chance with a firm header at the near post.