STADIO GIUSEPPE MEAZZA (Milan) – A daring Empoli side made the most of Inter’s complications on Monday night to take all three points thanks to 19-year-old Tommaso Baldanzi, who came off the bench in the second half to score and extend the visitors’ unbeaten streak to five Serie A games.
Milan Skriniar’s dismissal in the closing minutes of the first half proved too much of a blow for Inter to overcome. They had approached the game too prudently and eventually looked unable to tame the lively Tuscan outfit.
More than 65,000 Inter fans braved Milan’s freezing temperatures to watch what could potentially have been Skriniar’s last game with the Nerazzurri shirt, as Paris Saint-Germain are reportedly considering an immediate move for the centre-back, although he looks set to join the French giants in summer as a free agent.
Skriniar’s horrific night against Empoli
Despite the transfer rumours, the captain’s name was the first to be chanted by the home fans, as they paid homage to the players for the Supercoppa Italiana win. However, it didn’t turn out to be the boost they had hoped it would be, as Skriniar didn’t even complete the first half after receiving his second red card in all competitions.
Coming off two consecutive home clean sheets in Serie A, with a previously unknown solidity put on display, Inter stayed true to their more cautious approach, as they let Empoli gain ground while trying to hurt them with sudden breaks.
However, the visitors proved far from shy and threatened the Nerazzurri more than once in the opening 20 minutes, with Stefan de Vrij crucially deflecting Ciccio Caputo’s shot after Andre Onana’s first save of the night forced by Nicolo Cambiaghi.
Federico Dimarco looked the only player able to light a spark amongst the hosts, but his volley was kept out by Guglielmo Vicario, before Lautaro Martinez wasted a brilliant first-time pass by sending the ball over the bar from close range.
Skriniar was the first to pay the toll of an increasingly tense match, marked by repeated challenges and fouls, as his attempt to anticipate Caputo saw him boot the Empoli striker’s head by mistake, getting his second yellow card of the night.
Baldanzi’s instant impact
With his side reduced to 10 men, Simone Inzaghi replaced Joaquin Correa with Raoul Bellanova, trying to take advantage of the wing-back’s athleticism. But it didn’t prove enough to pose a threat for Empoli down the right flank.
On the other side, substitute Tommaso Baldanzi came off the bench and took about two minutes to make a decisive impact – the 19-year-old took a few touches at the edge of the box before thumping it home, making the most of Onana’s defective save.
Even with the likes of Romelu Lukaku and Edin Dzeko making their way onto the pitch, Inter could not avoid their sixth Serie A defeat of the season, which could allow rivals AC Milan to open up a four-point gap should they win at Lazio on Tuesday.