Lautaro Martinez pulled Inter Milan back from the brink against Empoli as the Nerazzurri live on to fight another day in the Serie A title race.

For 40 minutes, Inter Milan’s title hopes looked dead and buried as they trailed Empoli 2-0 at home in the Serie A on Friday night.

The visitors started off well, with Andrea Pinamonti and Kristjan Arsllani putting Empoli two up in the first 30 minutes. A stunned Giuseppe Meazza demanded a response, and the Inter players, to their credit, delivered.

An own goal by Simone Romagnoli five minutes before half-time turned the tide in the home side’s favour and they mounted a comeback that could potentially prove to be season-defining. Lautaro Martinez scored twice on either side of half-time to keep Inter’s title hopes and send them top of the league.

Substitute Alexis Sanchez added further gloss to the scoreline by finding the back of the net in stoppage time. The win puts Inter two points ahead of AC Milan who do not play until Sunday night. The ball is now firmly in the Rossoneri’s court as the title race threatens to go to the final day.

Simone Inzaghi’s men dominated the proceedings and had an incredible 37 shots all game. Their inability to lie down and take a beating was evident and the comeback has a sense of manifest destiny to it. Whether it will prove pivotal in the Serie A title race or be just another footnote in a memorable season remains to be seen. The Hard Tackle now looks at how the Inter Milan players fared on the night.

Samir Handanovic: 5/10

The veteran was caught cold both times when Empoli applied pressure on the Inter defence. The fact that the visitors found the net with their two shots on target all game is a disappointing statistic, and Handanovic should take some blame for the debacle. Thankfully, Inter seized the initiative in the 40th minute and eased the pressure on their goalkeeper.

Milan Skriniar: 6/10

The Slovak is usually a reliable defender but endured what was arguably his worst half of football for Inter this season. He struggled to keep up with Empoli’s fast start and looked off the pace early on. Thankfully for the defending champions, Skriniar kept his head and fought his way back into the game.

Stefan de Vrij: 4/10

The Dutchman channelled his inner Harry Maguire and was slow to turn. He was caught out of position several times and had the turning radius of the Titanic when confronted with the iceberg. The early reversals certainly shot his confidence, and it was a time before de Vrij regained his bearings.

Federico Dimarco: 6/10

Standing in for Alessandro Bastoni is no mean task, and it showed. Dimarco struggled to keep up with Empoli in the first half and was suspect in defence. He, however, redeemed himself while attacking and was also impressive while taking set pieces.

Denzel Dumfries: 5/10

The Dutchman struggled to match Fabiano Parisi and handed the initiative to the Empoli full-back in the opening exchanges. Nicolo Barella made his life easier by helping Dumfries double team Parisi, steadily handing Inter the advantage on the right. Dumfries, to his credit, improved as the game went on and took full control of his flank after the break.

Nicolo Barella: 7/10

The UEFA Euro 2020 hero played a major role in Inter’s resurgence and showcased vast reserves of energy on the night. He initially double teamed Parisi, preventing the Empoli man from overwhelming Dumfries on the flank before moving into the central areas. Barella can be accused of trying to be too nifty at times, but his energy and drive played a major role in Inter coming back to secure all three points on the night.

Marcelo Brozovic: 6/10

The Croat struggled to get going initially and found himself chasing shadows as Empoli took a two goal lead. He was uncharacteristically caught out of position and struggled to dictate play. He got better as the game went on and so did Inter. Once again both the player and the team’s fortunes are intertwined.

Hakan Calhanoglu: 7/10

He was possibly Inter’s best midfielder in the first half as he was positionally sound and did not fall into the same trap as his teammates. Calhanoglu showed excellent intent and did not give up even when his side trailed by two goals. This has been his best performance over the course of the last few weeks.

Ivan Perisic: 6/10

Perisic looked tired on Friday and was suspect defensively. However, he showed more impetus in attack and helped Inter kickstart several moves going forward.

Lautaro Martinez: 8/10

The Argentine struggled to start off well and looked heavy footed and far too static. Thankfully for Inter, Martinez came into life as the game went on and scored two goals that eventually made the difference. Whether it will prove to be pivotal come the end of the campaign remains to be seen.

Joaquin Correa: 6/10

The former Lazio man continues to impress in his build-up and link up plays. However, the end product is severely lacking, and it showed on the night. He was taken off for Alexis Sanchez in the 82nd minute.

SUBSTITUTES

Arturo Vidal: 6/10

The veteran was brought on to slow down proceedings and hand Inter the upper hand in the game. He did just that and kept things simple in the middle of the park. A pragmatic performance from a man who has seen much.

Danilo D’Ambrosio: 6/10

He replaced Dimarco in the 70th minute and instantly solidified the left side of Inter’s back three. D’Ambrosio’s presence also gave Perisic more freedom to focus on offensive contributions rather than track back to defend. 

Edin Dzeko: 6/10

He came off the bench and had a couple of good chances to add to the scoreline. Thankfully for Inter, the misses did not come to bite them.

Matteo Darmian: 6/10

He was defensively an upgrade over Dumfries and made use of his experience to nip Empoli’s attack in the bud. Darmian showed excellent awareness and read the dangers well on the night. All in all, a solid performance.

Alexis Sanchez: 7/10

The Chilean scored Inter’s fourth of the night and could have had a brace had he been more clinical. Sanchez also put in the requisite work and did not stop running all night. 

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