Empoli 0 Inter 1: Keita decisive late on for Spalletti's men

Inter just about did enough at Empoli on Saturday, as Keita Balde Diao's 72nd-minute goal secured a 1-0 Serie A win.

Empoli's Matias Silvestre and Mauro Icardi of Inter   -  Getty Images

Keita Balde Diao scored late in the game to give Inter a 1-0 win away to struggling Empoli in the absence of its travelling fans following racist abuse aimed at Kalidou Koulibaly last time out.

On top of a two-match home ban for Inter fans, Empoli refused to sell tickets to away supporters following the abuse of Napoli's Koulibaly, but Luciano Spalletti's men did not let it impact them and went on to claim the points.

Neither side offered much of an attacking threat in a generally dull first half, with creative ingenuity sorely lacking, particularly from the away side.

Keita had an effort chalked off early in the second half, and, although that hardly ushered in a period of great drama, the talented winger did make the difference with the decisive goal 18 minutes from time, moving Inter to within two points of second-placed Napoli, which hosts Bologna later on Saturday. 

After a tepid start, the first chance presented itself in the 29th minute and Inter survived, as Miha Zajc headed Manuel Pasqual's cross over from close range.

Inter responded by going straight up the other end and testing Ivan Provedel – Matteo Politano cutting in from the right and seeing his stinging drive palmed away.

A bright second-half

The second period started much more brightly, with Samir Handanovic crucially saving at Francesco Caputo's feet and Keita having a goal disallowed for offside all within the opening two minutes.

Keita was not to be denied later in the half, however, as he met Sime Vrsaljko's pass with a scuffed effort on the edge of the box and it found its way into the bottom-left corner.

Mauro Icardi should have got Inter a second a few minutes from time when he shot straight at Provedel from 10 yards, but the miss did not matter as Empoli was unable to prevent a fourth successive league defeat.

What does it mean? Keita shows his talent                       

Keita has been in and out of the team since returning to Italy, but he showed just why he is so highly rated here. His direct running was a threat, while he persisted even when things were not necessarily coming off. A mature display.

Keita takes responsibility

Through much of the match, Keita looked like the only Inter player capable of really threatening the Empoli defence. Luck did not appear to be on his side, until his late – somewhat fortunate – finish made the difference.

A fruitless outing for Icardi

Empoli was solid defensively for the majority of the game and that meant Icardi found it difficult to have an impact. The Argentina international did not have a single shot, which cannot have happened often for the striker.

What's next?

After its two-week break, Inter returns to action at home to Benevento in the Coppa Italia on January 13. Empoli is no longer in the cup, so it is not playing again until the following week, as it travels to Cagliari in Serie A.

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