(Reuters) – Two goals from Argentine striker Lautaro Martinez helped Inter Milan secure a nervy 4-2 home win over Empoli on Friday as Simone Inzaghi’s side kept their Serie A title hopes alive and provisionally went top of the table.
The victory put defending champions Inter one point ahead of AC Milan, who can regain top spot with a win at ninth-placed Verona on Sunday in their bid to secure a first Scudetto since 2011. Empoli remain 14th on 37 points.
Inter struggled considerably in the first half against an Empoli side who have won just once in their last 20 games in all competitions and soon found themselves 2-0 down.
The visitors shocked Inter goalkeeper Samir Handanovic in the fifth minute when striker Andrea Pinamonti latched on to a brilliant low cross from Szymon Zurkowski to score his 13th goal of the season.
The 22-year-old, who recently netted against AC Milan, Roma and twice against Napoli, did not celebrate scoring on Friday as he is on loan from Inter.
Empoli scored again five minutes later through Szymon Zurkowski but the goal was disallowed by VAR due to an offside but they doubled their lead in the 28th minute.
Defender Riccardo Fiamozzi sent a long ball into the box and Kristjan Asllani rifled it past Handanovic, who rushed out to stop him, while Milan Skriniar failed to clear the ball off the line.
But Inzaghi’s side levelled just before break when Martinez found the right corner for his 18th league goal of the campaign, with the goal waking Inter up as they started to create more opportunities before halftime.
The Argentina international bagged his second of the evening in the 64th minute when he fired a rebound past the keeper to put the hosts ahead for the first time, before Alexis Sanchez sealed all three points in injury time.
While Inter must wait to discover their fate in the title race, they will have a chance to win a trophy on Wednesday when they face Juventus in the Coppa Italia final.
(Reporting by Anita Kobylinska in Gdansk, editing by Pritha Sarkar)