Inter Milan held to goalless draw at Empoli

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Empoli checked Inter Milan's progress up the Serie A table by holding the Nerazzurri to a goalless draw at Stadio Carlo Castellani on Saturday. The ailing Italian giants have improved under Roberto Mancini, climbing into the top half, but they could not make the jump to sixth place after promoted Empoli took control of proceedings in Tuscany. Inter were perhaps fortunate to leave with a single point and they had goalkeeper Samir Handanovic to thank for making a series of saves from the likes of Manuel Pucciarelli and Piotr Zielinski. Despite Inter's ambitions it was the home side who dominated the first half and they went close to notching inside five minutes. When Elseid Hysaj let rip with a powerful right-footed drive from distance, Handanovic had to stretch himself to tip the ball away. The Inter keeper then punched Lorenzo Tonelli's effort to safety and watched as Simone Verdi blasted just wide from 30 metres out. Shortly after the half-hour mark Matias Vecino sent Pucciarelli into a one-on-one with Handanovic that the Slovenian managed to get to grips with before Empoli's striker could shoot. In a rare moment of promise for Inter before the break, Fredy Guarin fizzed the ball past a post from outside the area, but they had been lucky to avoid conceding. The Nerazzurri were much brighter when play resumed and twice went close to scoring, with Nemanja Vidic nodding the ball wide of an unguarded net and Rodrigo Palacio repeating the trick from Hernanes' cutting pass into the Empoli box. Maurizio Sarri's men responded straight away and, when Pucciarelli forced Handanovic into a sloppy save, Danilo D'Ambrosio had to clear before Levan Mchedlidze could convert the tap-in. The ever-lively Pucciarelli then left Vidic behind to test Handanovic with an attempt off his left boot and Massimo Maccarone fed fellow substitute Zielinski for a low shot in the 72nd minute. Mancini's last roll of the dice was to introduce new signing Xherdan Shaqiri from the bench, but the former Bayern Munich man could not quite force the issue. He did give travelling fans a glimpse of his talent by providing a cool pass for Hernanes, yet the Brazilian controlled before clipping wide of the mark and Inter had to settle for a share of the points.