MILAN (AP) — Lautaro Martínez may have saved Inter Milan’s title challenge.
Martinez scored twice to help the defending champion recover from two goals down to beat Empoli 4-2 and move to the top of Serie A on Friday — for 48 hours at least.
Inter was a point above city rival AC Milan, which plays at Hellas Verona on Sunday. There are two rounds remaining after this weekend.
Inter knew it was the start of a week that could make or break its season. It next has the Italian Cup final on Wednesday against Juventus. The Bianconeri were playing at relegation-threatened Genoa late.
Inter started poorly when Empoli took the lead less than five minutes in. Szymon Żurkowski raced down the right and crossed for Andrea Pinamonti — who is on loan from Inter and a Nerazzurri fan — to slide in and slot into the far bottom corner.
Pinamonti, who didn’t celebrate, almost set up a second five minutes later. However, he was offside in the buildup before his cross for Żurkowski, and the goal was ruled out.
Inter was awarded a penalty in the 22nd for a challenge by Fabiano Parisi on Nicolò Barella but it was revoked by referee Gianluca Manganiello after a video review.
Empoli got the second shortly after when Kristjan Asllani got between two Inter defenders to control a long ball and fired an angled shot past the onrushing Samir Handanović to stun San Siro into silence.
Inter pulled one back five minutes from the break after Empoli defender Simone Romagnoli attempted to intercept a cross but turned it into his own net.
The home side levelled on the stroke of halftime. Barella won the ball off Asllani and threaded it through to Hakan Çalhanoğlu, who cut it back for Martínez to drill it into the back of the net.
Inter laid siege to the Empoli goal but it was kept at bay by fine saves from Guglielmo Vicario. However, he could do nothing to keep out Martínez’s volley in the 64th.
The Argentina international whipped off his shirt in celebration and he was joined by almost all of his teammates as the home supporters roared his name in ecstasy.
It was his 19th league goal and 23rd in all competitions.
Edin Džeko hit the post in stoppage time then Alexis Sánchez sealed the result.