A brace from Lautaro Martinez helped Inter come from two goals down to beat Empoli 4-2 at San Siro on Friday evening.
Simone Inzaghi’s 300th match as a coach was certainly memorable as his Nerazzurri side returned to the top of the Serie A table, leading rivals Milan by a point but now having played a game more.
Empoli took a shock lead on the counter attack after just five minutes through Inter loanee Andrea Pinamonti. Ivan Perisic had pushed high up the pitch and the visitors dropped one ball into the space the Croatian had vacated, allowing Szymon Zurkowski to cross for Pinamonti to cleverly turn home against his parent side, looking rather sheepish in his muted celebration.
Inter’s blushes were spared when Empoli had the ball in the net five minutes later through Zurkowski, but a late offside flag and subsequent VAR check saved the Nerazzurri.
At the other end, Nicolo Barella struck the outside of the post with a fierce volley, but he was way offside and a goal would not have stood.
Milan Skriniar and Martinez both squandered half-chances from corners as Inzaghi’s men ramped up the pressure.
Inter were awarded a 22nd-minute penalty when Barella was brought down by Fabiano Parisi, but the decision was reversed after a VAR intervention, with replays showing that the 21-year-old took the ball cleanly with his sliding challenge.
And Empoli doubled their lead not long after. A simple long ball forward by Riccardo Fiamozzi was not dealt with at all by Stefan de Vrij, allowing Kristjan Asllani to race in behind to slot past Samir Handanovic.
The Nerazzurri were handed a lifeline when Federico Dimarco’s cross was diverted into the net by Simone Romagnoli, and after another nervy VAR check, the goal was allowed to stand and Inter had a foothold again.
Another volley from Barella sailed just over the top before Martinez equalized for Inter on the stroke of half-time firing in from Hakan Calhanoglu’s cutback with the outside of his boot.
A header from Denzel Dumfries dropped just wide of Guglielmo Vicario’s goal just after the break, before fellow wing-back Perisic came agonizingly close to finding the far corner.
Empoli were let off the hook when both Martinez and Skriniar failed to get a proper connection on Dimarco’s fizzing cross, while Barella and Calhanoglu’s respective strikes from 25-yard were off target.
A manic corner routine saw Dumfries, Skriniar and Joaquin Correa all go close. Moments after that set piece, Martinez was unable to get a clean contact on Dumfries’ clever cutback, but the Argentine made no mistake when a loose ball fell to him in the 18-yard box, slotting past Vicario with force to put Inter ahead for the first time.
Correa and Edin Dzeko failed to add to the lead while Alexis Sanchez somehow fired over from point-blank range late on as the hosts looked to see out the win, and the Chilean added a fourth with the final kick of the game to seal the three points.
GK: Samir Handanović – 4/10 – Hardly involved but should have still done better with Asllani’s goal.
CB: Milan Skriniar – 7/10 – The least busy of Inter’s defenders at the back while he made several good contributions at the other end.
CB: Stefan de Vrij – 3/10 – Has the turning circle of a rubbish truck and Empoli capitalized on this.
CB: Federico Dimarco – 8/10 – Didn’t have the requisite pace to chase down Zurkowski in the build up to Empoli’s opening goal, though that wasn’t entirely his fault. He was incredibly useful on the overlap, providing his worth with Inter’s first strike.
RWB: Denzel Dumfries – 7/10 – His crossing caused Empoli’s goalkeeper and backline plenty of headaches.
CM: Nicolo Barella – 7/10 – Always involved in the action and this was usually a net positive after a testing 15 minutes or so when Inter were trailing.
CM: Marcelo Brozovic – 6/10 – Remained a calm presence in midfield.
CM: Hakan Calhanoglu – 6/10 – A bit more erratic than Brozovic but his intensity and technique led to Martinez’s equaliser.
LWB: Ivan Perisic – 6/10 – Caught way out of position for Empoli’s opener, but like Dimarco had a lot of joy down the left flank going forward.
CF: Joaquin Correa – 4/10 – Played on the periphery. Rarely looked like making a meaningful contribution.
CF: Lautaro Martinez – 9/10 – Led from the front superbly and was good value for his two superb goals. Always active and causing trouble.
SUB: Arturo Vidal (70′ for Calhanoglu) – 5/10
SUB: Edin Dzeko (70′ for Martinez) – 6/10
SUB: Danilo D’Ambrosio (70′ for Dimarco) – 5/10
SUB: Matteo Darmian (76′ for Dumfries) – 5/10
SUB: Alexis Sanchez (82′ for Correa) – 7/10