EMPOLI - Inter take a two-goal lead into next week's Tim Cup quarter-final return leg with Empoli after a 2-0 victory at the Stadio Castellani.

The Nerazzurri dominated for long stretches of their first competitive fixture of the new year as Adriano started 2007 as he ended 2006, with a well-taken second-half goal to give further confirmation he's returning to his best.

Substitute Ivan Cordoba headed in the second in added time to give Inter a comfortable cushion ahead of next Wednesday's clash at the Meazza.

Luis Figo had a goal ruled out on 21 minutes after his indirect free sailed over the Empoli rearguard, out of Bassi's reach and into the left corner.

Mancini's men went close again twenty minutes later when Patrick Vieira had a header cleared off the line by Marzoratti after Bassi's one-handed clearance from an Adriano cross.

Right on the stroke of half time Zlatan Ibrahimovic tested the Empoli custodian with a crisp left-foot shot from inside the Tuscan box.

Francesco Toldo was rarely troubled in the opening period as the Empoli strikers failed to capitalise on a series of decent balls into his area.

Inter stepped up a gear after the restart, producing chance after chance. Adriano sidefooted wide an Ibrahimovic low cross before Vieira had a near range effort blocked by Bassi after receiving from Adriano.

Ibra then had a close-range shot hooked clear by Vanigli before Matteini sent a curler just wide after a quick one-two involving Marianini and Buzzegoli.

The inevitable breakthrough came on 71 minutes when Adriano (who ended his goal drought against Atalanta in the last game before the Christmas break, and added two more in the friendly match against Bahrain) ran on to Ibrahimovic's pin-point through ball before lobbing the onrushing Bassi.

Adriano was denied a second soon after by Bassi, who pushed the Brazilian's bullet header from Figo's free kick on to the post.

Empoli's best chance of an equaliser fell to Gasparetto, who outjumped Cordoba to head narrowly over Toldo's crossbar. The Colombian defender made amends in added time, rising in the Tuscan box to send a looping header from Mariano Gonzalez' cross over Bassi and into the back of the net.

EMPOLI 0-2 INTER (HT: 0-0)

Scorers: Adriano 71, Cordoba 90+1

EMPOLI: 1 Bassi; 19 Iacoponi, 16 Marzoratti, 15 Vanigli, 33 Ascoli (2 Rincon 74); 27 Ficini, 8 Marianini, 20 Buzzegoli; 17 Eder (18 Cesaretti 74), 99 Gasparetto, 7 Matteini (21 Baldanzeddu 77).
Subs not used: 23 Balli, 28 Musacci, 13 Arcidiacono, 25 Pizza.
Coach: Luigi Cagni.

INTER: 1 Toldo; 13 Maicon, 16 Burdisso, 23 Materazzi, 6 Maxwell (2 Cordoba 81); 4 Zanetti, 15 Dacourt (19 Cambiasso 69), 14 Vieira; 7 Figo; 8 Ibrahimovic (91 Mariano Gonzalez 76), 10 Adriano.
Subs not used: 12 Julio Cesar, 77 Andreolli, 21 Solari, 60 Ribas.
Coach: Roberto Mancini.

Referee: Emidio Morganti (Ascoli).

Booked: Marianini 20, Vieira, Materazzi 32, Iacoponi 34, Figo 37.

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