Empoli 0 Inter 0: Toothless visitors held to underwhelming stalemate
Inter's erratic run of form following the return of coach Roberto Mancini continued with an underwhelming 0-0 Serie A draw at Empoli on Saturday.
A point at champions Juventus, followed by an eye-catching 3-1 win over in-form Genoa last week, seemed to have inspired some optimism at Inter after an unspectacular start for the former Manchester City boss, but the Milan club produced a laboured display at Stadio Carlo Castellani.
Inter endured great difficulty creating any chances of note in the first half, with their talented frontline managing just two shots in the first 45 minutes, while Empoli often attacked with purpose.
Nemanja Vidic and Rodrigo Palacio both went close for the visitors early in the second half as Inter appeared to liven up, but the visitors looked out of sorts at the back.
Empoli regularly threatened through Manuel Pucciarelli and Simone Verdi, though they failed to find a way past goalkeeper Samir Handanovic, who proved an effective last line of defence.
Mancini eventually introduced new signing Xherdan Shaqiri for his debut in the 74th minute, but the Switzerland international could not drive Inter on to victory, missing out on the chance to move up to sixth in the table.
Empoli were brighter from the off, getting the ball forward swiftly and attacking in numbers.
The home side went close to breaking the deadlock after just five minutes, as Elseid Hysaj's 25-yard effort forced Handanovic into a desperate save down to his right.
Inter did appear to tighten up at the back, but struggled to mount meaningful attacks of their own, with Hernanes' tame attempt from 20 yards in the 24th minute all they could muster in the first half-an-hour.
Empoli remained a threat going forward, and striker Pucciarelli felt aggrieved to be denied a penalty in the 30th minute after being nudged over by Hugo Campagnaro.
The visitors registered the second of their two first-half shots seven minutes later and, although Fredy Guarin's long-range drive was well hit, Empoli stopper Luigi Sepe watched it sail harmlessly wide of his left-hand post.
Inter appeared more willing to commit bodies forward at the start of the second period and, as a result, the visitors went agonisingly close to opening the scoring.
Sepe failed to deal with Lukas Podolski's corner and Vidic met the delivery with a towering header, but the Serbian's effort bounced a few yards wide.
Inter went even closer shortly after, as Palacio raced on to a delightful pass from Hernanes and sent a diving header narrowly off target, but Empoli continued to cause problems for them at the back.
With 64 minutes gone, Pucciarelli raced clear down the left and, although Handanovic blocked his shot, the ball ricocheted towards goal and forced Marco Andreolli into a vital clearance.
Mancini handed a debut to Shaqiri late on, but the new arrival did little to improve Inter's toothless attack in his brief cameo, as the match petered out to a conclusion.