Inter Milan’s perfect start to the Serie A season continued with a 1-0 win at Empoli on Sunday but the Nerazzurri found it harder than they perhaps expected against a side that has yet to register a point or score a goal after five matches.
It needed a special strike from Federico Dimarco in the second half to break down Empoli’s resolute defense, which had conceded 12 goals in its previous four matches.
More than half of those came in last weekend’s 7-0 defeat at Roma, which led to the dismissal of coach Paolo Zanetti and the hiring of Aurelio Andreazzoli for his third spell at the club.
Inter has now won all five of its Serie A matches, conceding just one goal, and moved three points ahead of second-place AC Milan.
Defending champion Napoli is already seven points behind Inter after a 0-0 draw at Bologna.
Inter traveled to Empoli full of confidence after last weekend’s 5-1 thrashing of Milan in the city derby. It also drew 1-1 at Real Sociedad in their Champions League opener on Wednesday.
The Nerazzurri piled on the pressure from the start and had two good opportunities in the opening two minutes, while Matteo Darmian’s header had to be headed off the line by Empoli defender Ardian Ismajli in the 10th minute.
Inter thought it had broken the deadlock in the 35th but Marcus Thuram’s goal was ruled out for offside.
The visitors did finally make the breakthrough six minutes into the second half. An Inter corner was headed out but only as far as Dimarco on the edge of the area and he unleashed a precise shot on the half-volley into the top far corner.
GARCIA AT RISK?
Rudi Garcia’s job could be at risk only a few months into his tenure as Napoli coach.
Garcia took over in June after the resignation of Luciano Spalletti, who had just ended Napoli’s 33-year wait for the Serie A title.
But Napoli is now winless in its past three league matches.
Victor Osimhen should have given Napoli the lead with 18 minutes remaining but he fired a penalty wide of the right post. The spot kick had been awarded after Bologna midfielder Riccardo Calafiori knocked the ball away with his wrist as he stumbled.
Osimhen had also hit the post early on.
Garcia was jeered by Napoli fans when he substituted Khvicha Kvaratskhelia and later Osimhen. There were also loud jeers at the end of the match.
Romelu Lukaku struck again but Roma was held to a 1-1 draw at Torino and only has one win in five league matches.
Lukaku’s goal — following a good team move in the 68th minute — was his third in four matches since his move from Chelsea. The Belgium forward was on loan at Inter last season.
Duván Zapata leveled for Torino with five minutes remaining when he headed in a free kick. Zapata almost joined Roma in the offseason from Atalanta.
ROUGH FOR RANIERI
Claudio Ranieri’s Cagliari is still looking for its first win back in Serie A after it lost 2-0 at Atalanta.
Goals from Ademola Lookman and Mario Pašalić secured Atalanta its third win of the season.
Lookman almost scored before his 33rd minute opener as he slalomed through the Cagliari defense but his strike came off the crossbar and seconds later, as the move continued, Davide Zappacosta also hit the right post.
Cagliari also saw an effort come off the woodwork nine minutes from time as it tried to get back into the match.
Elsewhere, clinical Fiorentina had two shots on target and scored from both as it beat Udinese 2-0. Udinese, which has only scored once in five matches, had 20 attempts on goal, eight on target.