MILAN: Ivan Perisic scored twice including a late winner as Inter Milan began the New Year with a 2-1 comeback win at Udinese to move up to sixth in Serie A on Sunday.
Inter travelled north looking to secure their fourth consecutive win only to come up against a determined Udinese side that saw Seko Fofana test visiting goalkeeper Samir Handanovic with a vicious drive after just six minutes.
Despite the hosts taking a 17th-minute lead thanks to Jakub Jankto, Perisic goals on the stroke of half- and full-time moved Inter to within nine points of leaders Juventus, who host Bologna in Sunday's late game and also have a game in hand after missing their final fixture of the year due to Italian Super Cup commitments.
Inter are chasing a third-place finish and a return to the Champions League, and Handanovic told Sky Sport: "This is a signal to the rest of the league that we'll be fighting all the way.
"We knew it wouldn't be easy here, Udinese had taken 10 points from their last five games, but the goal just before half time gave us belief and we started the second half with a lot more conviction."
A mazy run by Samir had the Inter defence in disarray on 17 minutes and when Jankto ran on to the loose ball inside the area he beat Handanovic with an unstoppable shot.
Udinese should have built on their early lead but when Rodrigo De Paul sneaked between two defenders minutes later to meet a cutback from the byline he fired off the base of the post as a rooted Handanovic looked on.
Jankto almost had his second of the game soon after when he powered down the left, turned Jeison Murillo and fired a low angled strike just wide of the far post.
Udinese had the ball in the net again on 31 minutes when Duvan Zapata beat Handanovic from close range but the whistle had already blown for a foul by Frenchman Cyril Thereau as he skipped into the area.
Udinese lost momentum and were left lamenting spurning a series of half chances just before half time when Mauro Icardi coolly set up an unmarked Perisic to beat Orestis Karnezis inside the goalkeeper's near post seconds before the interval.
- 'Naive' -
Inter resumed in positive fashion, Ever Banega meeting Antonio Candreva's cross at the far post only to volley wide.
Inter coach Stefano Pioli replaced Banega with Joao Mario 10 minutes after the restart but Perisic remained the biggest threat to Udinese, the Croatian curling a free kick just wide of Karnezis' upright just after the hour.
Portugal midfielder Mario should have given Inter an 83rd minute lead when Karnezis pushed Candreva's cross into his path, only for Silvan Widmer to make a desperate goal-line clearance.
Mario made amends four minutes with a great delivery for Perisic, who rose to nod past Karnezis at the far post.
"Football matches are won by the team that scores the most goals and for that I have to compliment Inter," said Udinese coach Luigi Delneri.
"We were perhaps a little naive at times, but I can't blame the lads. We played a good game."
Roma, in second at four points adrift, can go clear of third-placed Napoli with a win at Genoa later Sunday.