Mauro Icardi’s scoring streak continued as Inter beat Empoli 2-0 at the Stadio Carlo Castellani for a third Serie A win in a row.
The Argentine had netted in 2-1 successes over both Pescara and champions Juventus, and he made a flying start in Florence, bringing his career tally against Empoli to six with a first-half double.
Inter had not previously managed three victories on the bounce in this calendar year, but had secured this result by half-time as the hosts never looked likely to respond.
While the second period did not quite have the same spark as the Icardi-inspired first, Frank de Boer’s men confidently saw out the win.
And following a slow start to his tenure at San Siro, De Boer’s side appear to be on the up, with this a dominant, ruthless performance.
With Inter unbeaten against their home side in over 10 years, it was little surprise that they immediately took control and then the lead.
A first opening did not arrive until the 10th minute, but when it did – Antonio Candreva working a yard to centre from the right – Icardi was on hand to clinically stoop a header into the net for his fifth of the season.
It was 2-0 and a second for Icardi seven minutes later.
Sent through by Joao Mario, Icardi had the pace to steer clear of the Empoli defence and the cool head to slot a low finish beyond Lukasz Skorupski.
Two ahead inside 17 minutes, Inter were now in an unprecedented position this season, having conceded first in all five of their previous competitive games under De Boer, but they remained on the front foot as Icardi overran the ball to squander a chance for his hat-trick.
And the visitors, with their brutal intensity, turned up the heat further. Skorupski was required to gather Danilo D’Ambrosio’s effort at the second attempt after Candreva’s lay-off had prompted a shot.
Finally, as half-time approached, Empoli offered a threat, with Inter loanee Federico Dimarco’s drive from Riccardo Saponara’s incisive pass turned around the post by Samir Handanovic.
The Slovenian goalkeeper was soon tested again by the same man, this time diving high to his left to parry, before De Boer’s men rediscovered their swashbuckling style in the closing stages of the half.
Manuel Pucciarelli could not make a clean connection from Jeison Murillo’s wayward header shortly after the restart, but the next chance came at the other end as Icardi teed up Candreva to thump straight at Skorupski.
Empoli captain Massimo Maccarone blazed over in a rare second-half opening, while substitute Eder was similarly wasteful from Ivan Perisic’s cross for Inter.
Instead, with the scoreline remaining unchanged, De Boer’s attentions could turn to a home clash against Bologna on Sunday.
Key Opta stats:
– Inter have won eight of their last nine Serie A games against Empoli.
– Icardi has scored four headed goals – he has not scored more than two in each of his previous seasons.
– Inter have won three Serie A games in a row, the last two with a possession lower than 50 per cent.