Inter beat Empoli to close in on Serie A title

Inter Milan took another step towards the Serie A title on Monday with a straightforward 2-0 win over struggling Empoli which maintained their 14-point lead at the top of the league.

Federico Dimarco put Inter ahead after five minutes at the San Siro before substitute Alexis Sanchez sealed the points in front of delighted home fans with nine minutes remaining.

Monday’s comfortable victory left Inter needing just 11 more points from eight matches to beat second-placed AC Milan to a 20th Italian league crown.

Inter have a huge lead on their local rivals thanks in large part to academy product Dimarco, whose first-time strike from Alessandro Bastoni’s neat clipped pass separated the hosts from their spirited opponents for most of the match.

It was Bastoni’s third assist in as many league matches and the Italy defender joked: “It was the worst of the lot, Dimarco’s finish made it look much better!”

“We’re really happy with the win because we’ve just come off the international break and it’s never easy winning after travelling around the world,” added Bastoni.

Simone Inzaghi’s side were far from the scintillating form they showed before being knocked out of the Champions League by Atletico Madrid last month.

But Inter have dropped only two points since the turn of the year and Monday’s win was a good way to end what has been a difficult couple of weeks.

Francesco Acerbi was cleared late last month of racially abusing Napoli defender Juan Jesus, an ugly episode which dragged on through the international break as the Italy defender and Inter denied the accusation.

Acerbi started the game after avoiding a potential 10-match ban due to the Italian Football Federation’s disciplinary tribunal deciding there wasn’t enough evidence to punish him.

A fourth straight defeat without scoring a goal left Empoli back in the relegation zone on goals scored, swapping places with 17th-placed Frosinone who drew 1-1 with Genoa on Saturday.

“If that run had knocked our confidence you’d have seen it tonight with a bad performance but that didn’t happen,” said Empoli coach Davide Nicola.

– Bologna charge on –

Bologna cruised past Serie A’s bottom side Salernitana 3-0 to continue their charge towards a first-ever appearance in the Champions League.

Stunning first-half strikes from Riccardo Orsolini and Alexis Saelemaekers and Charalampos Lykogiannis’ fine finish in stoppage time ensured that Bologna would stay in fourth place, five points above Roma who were held to a goalless draw at Lecce.

Thiago Motta’s side have won eight of their last nine matches and not only look a good bet to reach Europe’s top club competition, but also have Juventus in their sights.

Juve are just two points ahead of Bologna in third following their last-gasp defeat at Lazio on Saturday and have been dragged back into a battle for the Champions League.

Bologna currently sit in the final spot but Serie A is firmly in the running for an extra place in next year’s revamped tournament, meaning fifth may well be good enough.

Both Bologna and Roma host Juve before the end of the season.

“We’re doing really well at the minute, with the way that we’re playing and the results we’re getting,” said Motta to Sky Sport.

Although the seven-time Italian champions played one round in the old European Cup in 1964, the same year that they most recently won the Scudetto, they have never participated in the modern Champions League.

Last season’s ninth place was the highest Bologna had finished in Serie A for over a decade and they are well on course for their best placing in years.

“Obviously we’re looking at the table but that’s not what matters to us, what’s important is putting in the work in training and the performances on the pitch,” said Saelemaekers.

Stefano Colantuono could not turn around Salernitana’s fortunes in his first match in charge, his team falling to their third straight defeat as they sink towards Serie B.

Salernitana have not won a single game since the turn of the year and are 12 points from safety. BSS

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