MILAN (Reuters) - Third-placed Inter Milan needed a second-half goal from Keita Balde to earn a hard-fought win away to lowly Empoli in Serie A on Saturday.
The Spanish-born Senegalese international met Sime Vrsaljko's low cross with a first-time shot on the turn in the 72nd minute as Inter reached the halfway mark of the championship with 39 points, 14 behind leaders Juventus.
It was Inter's third 1-0 win in their last four league matches, although they performed in fits and starts and needed a good save by Samir Handanovic from Miha Zajc to prevent Empoli going ahead at the start of the second half.
Promoted Empoli's fourth successive league defeat left them 17th in the 20-team table with 16 points, one place above the relegation zone.
(Writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by Clare Fallon)