MILAN - Goal-shy title contenders Inter Milan found their scoring boots in timely fashion on Sunday with a 4-0 win over Frosinone that fired Roberto Mancini’s men two points clear in Serie A.

Inter’s defensive game has been the bedrock of their push for a first title since their treble-winning season in 2010, although the Nerazzurri have also been conspicuously short of goals. Inter had been given a huge incentive when overnight leaders Fiorentina were held to a 2-2 draw at home by Empoli, 24 hours after fellow title contenders Roma were held by the same scoreline at Bologna.

Those results left Napoli top of the pile on goal difference after Maurizio Sarri’s men saw Lorenzo Insigne and Gonzalo Higuain strike in a 2-0 away win at Verona earlier on Sunday. Jonathan Biabiany broke the deadlock on the half-hour after ramming the rebound from an Adem Ljajic strike in under the crossbar to hit his maiden league goal for the club, and almost immediately Inter began to play with swagger.

Argentinian striker Mauro Icardi doubled Inter’s lead eight minutes after the restart after flicking Ljajic’s short pass past Nicola Leali in the visitors’ goal. It was only the second time this season Inter had netted two goals in a league game, but defender Jeison Murillo made it 3-0 three minutes from the final whistle when he beat Leali from Stevan Jovetic’s backheel after Ivan Perisic’s decisive run.

The three-goal cushion prompted Mancini to replace Icardi with Marcelo Brozovic, and the Croatian seized the day when he burst downfield after linking up with Ljajic to fire past Leali. Inter now have 30 points and a two-point cushion on Napoli and Fiorentina, with Roma a point further behind. Earlier, Higuain hit his 10th goal of the campaign to take the lead in Serie A’s scoring charts and fire Napoli one-point clear of Fiorentina after victory over struggling Verona.

But Fiorentina maintained their hopes in what continues to be a thrilling battle for this season’s scudetto and were unlucky not to go two points clear after spurning a series of late chances at the Artemio Franchi. Empoli travelled to Florence looking for their fourth win in six league outings and were well on their way after taking a 2-0 half-time lead thanks to goals from Marko Livaja and Marcel Buchel.

Paulo Sousa had rested his most potent strike pair, Nikola Kalinic and Josip Ilicic, with one eye on Thursday’s Europa League clash against the coach’s former club, FC Basel. But Kalinic and Federico Bernardeschi replaced Mario Suarez and Ante Rebic for the start of the second half and the impact was almost immediate. Croatia marksman Kalinic reduced arrears with a finely-taken header from just outside the six-yard box and had his brace inside five minutes when he squeezed between two defenders to slot Khouma Babacar’s low delivery home after the Senegalese striker had been given acres of space on the right.

Kalinic could have secured his second hat-trick of the season, after his triple in a 4-1 win at Inter, 13 minutes from the end but saw his first-timer from eight yards out glance off the top of the crossbar. Sousa applauded his side’s second-half comeback but admitted he would not repeat the same starting line-up. “After seeing our performance in the first half, I wouldn’t send out the same starting team again,” he told Mediaset. “We’re very happy with our second half and showed enough character to level and also win. I think we deserved more.”

Champions Juventus finished the weekend in sixth place after claiming a third consecutive win for the first time this season with a 1-0 victory over AC Milan on Saturday. But Massimiliano Allegri’s men, who host Manchester City in the Champions League on Wednesday, remain nine points off the pace.


Inter Milan 4-0 Frosinone

Napoli 2-0 Verona

Torino 1-0 Atalanta

Chievo 2-1 Carpi

Fiorentina 2-2 Empoli 2

Genoa 2-1 Sassuolo

Lazio 1-1 Palermo

Udinese 1-0 Sampdoria