By Alasdair Mackenzie
(Reuters) – Mauro Icardi scored on his first Inter Milan appearance in almost two months to help his side extend their lead in third place with a 4-0 Serie A win away to 10-man Genoa on Wednesday.
The Argentine had not featured since being stripped of the captaincy on Feb. 13 amid protracted contract renewal talks.
Icardi initially said he could not play because of a knee problem, before returning to training last week after negotiations between his lawyer and the club.
Roberto Gagliardini opened the scoring in the first half before Icardi won and converted a penalty after Genoa defender Cristian Romero was sent off.
The former Inter captain then teed up Ivan Perisic for their third in the second half and Gagliardini scored his second of the night to complete the rout.
The result leaves Inter four points clear of fourth-placed rivals AC Milan, while Genoa remain 12th on 33 points.
Inter went in front after 15 minutes when Gagliardini arrived in the box to get on the end of Kwadwo Asamoah’s cross and guide a finish beyond goalkeeper Ionut Radu.
Icardi then fired a shot off the post, before later in the first half he was pulled back by Romero inside the box as he turned to shoot.
That resulted in a straight red card for the 20-year-old defender and a penalty to Inter which Icardi dispatched in composed fashion.
The 26-year-old then turned creator for Inter’s third nine minutes after the restart, sliding a through ball into the path of Perisic who fired in a finish, before Gagliardini rose to meet a corner and head in his second of the night and his team’s fourth.
Other results also boosted Inter’s Champions League qualification hopes, as AS Roma were held to a 2-2 draw at home to Fiorentina and Lazio fell to a shock 1-0 defeat at relegation battling SPAL.
Andrea Belotti’s double helped Torino beat Sampdoria 2-1, leaving Atalanta, Lazio, Roma and Torino level on 48 points in places fifth to eighth, eight points adrift of Inter although Atalanta and Lazio have a game in hand.
At the other end of the table, second-bottom Frosinone scored a 103rd-minute penalty to secure a 3-2 win over Parma that moves them within eight points of safety, while SPAL’s victory moved them five points clear of the drop zone.
Empoli shocked Napoli with a 2-1 victory in the early kickoff to move out of the relegation zone at Bologna’s expense, but Sinisa Mihajlovic’s side can return to 17th place with a win over Atalanta on Thursday.
(Reporting by Alasdair Mackenzie; Editing by Toby Davis)