Inter are at least temporarily top of the table, but were made to suffer for their victory, fighting back from 2-0 down to beat Empoli 4-2 with a Lautaro Martinez brace.
The Nerazzurri went into this round two points behind leaders Milan, who won’t visit Verona until Sunday. Hakan Calhanoglu returned from suspension with Alessandro Bastoni still injured, while Edin Dzeko was rested ahead of the Coppa Italia Final against Juventus on May 11. Empoli had Petar Stojanovic and Valerio Verre banned, with Lorenzo Tonelli, Riccardo Marchizza and Nedim Bajrami out of action.
Empoli took the lead within five minutes in front of a stunned San Siro crowd, as Szymon Zurkowski burst down the right and rolled across for Andrea Pinamonti to slide in, getting to the ball before Milan Skriniar. On loan from Inter and a lifelong Nerazzurri supporter, Pinamonti had promised not to celebrate if he scored and he kept that word, instead dedicating the goal to agent Mino Raiola.
Zurkowski then had the ball in the net again on Pinamonti’s assist after 10 minutes, but this time the offside flag was up for the striker’s position much earlier in the build-up, a lucky escape for the hosts.
Lautaro Martinez nodded over and a deflected Denzel Dumfries cross-shot flashed across the face of goal. Inter were awarded a penalty on 22 minutes, but it was revoked after a VAR review because Parisi got the ball with the sliding tackle on Nicolò Barella.
Instead, Empoli doubled their lead by again playing out from the back, Riccardo Fiamozzi’s ball over the top found Kristjan Asllani, who got between Stefan de Vrij and Milan Skriniar to control and score from a tight angle.
Barella had more penalty appeals waved away, as even if there was a slight Filippo Bandinelli nudge, he still went into a ridiculous dive.
Inter got one back when Federico Dimarco put in a low cross from the left, in his attempt to clear it, Simone Romagnoli accidentally shinned the ball into his own net.
Barella fired a volley not far over and moments later Inter completed the comeback from 0-2 to 2-2 before half-time. Barella robbed Asllani in midfield, Hakan Calhanoglu pulled back from the by-line for Lautaro Martinez’s first-time strike off the outside of the boot from 12 yards. Empoli were furious here too, as they felt Barella had fouled Asllani.
They almost took the lead in stoppages, Guglielmo Vicario’s gloves stung by Perisic’s volley at the back post on a corner.
After the break, Denzel Dumfries nodded wide and Perisic flashed a ball across the face of goal, while both Lautaro Martinez and De Vrij failed to get the final touch on a Dimarco assist.
Vicario did well to fingertip a Calhanoglu daisy-cutter round the base of the far post, made another save on Dumfries from the resulting corner before a series of shots were charged down by defensive bodies.
The siege paid off, as Fiamozzi’s attempt to clear a Barella cross turned into an assist for Lautaro Martinez’s volley from 10 yards.
Correa also tested Vicario after a strong run and Alexis Sanchez sliding in failed to finish another Perisic assist, as Empoli seemed to run out of steam after that early surge.
Edin Dzeko almost had a fourth in stoppages, his angled drive bouncing off the inside of the far post. Instead, he turned provider and pulled a ball across from the left for Alexis Sanchez to sweep into the roof of the net from six yards.