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After consecutive hard fought away victories in the Champions league that have left them topping the group, midweek European encounters have proved to be a welcome break from Internazionale’s disastrous domestic campaign. A 2-1 defeat to bitter rivals Juventus last weekend means that the Serpenti are flirting dangerously with the relegation zone and a massive eleven points from the top of the table already, but a comfortable 2-0 victory against Lille at the San Siro means that the 2010 European Champions have guaranteed their place in the knock out stages.

Champions League Recap: Internazionale 2-1 Lille

Surprisingly Giampaolo Pazzini, who proved to be the difference between the two sides in match day 3 started on the bench, but there were huge boosts elsewhere as midfielders Wesley Sneijder and Thiago along with Walter Samuel and an out of form Diego Milito returned to the team.

Lille have won only one of their last eight games in European competition and that didn’t look like changing early in the first half as Inter hit the wood work with 120 seconds! Diego Milito was sent through from a pass by Christian Chivu on the left and though he beat the keeper with a cute chip, his effort hit the crossbar. Mauro Zarate continued his one man crusade against the world by dribbling a couple of players before driving an outrageous effort just wide of Mickael Landreau’s goal.

After the early onslaught Lille found their feet and grew into the game thanks predominantly to the wily experience and cunning of former Chelsea man Joe Cole and the effervescent magic of Inter target Eden Hazard, who both enjoyed a lot of possession in the wide areas.

However despite the period of pressure Inter took the lead in the 19th minute to punish their more naive opposition. Mauro Zarate’s slippery turn and speculative shot somehow went for a corner kick, which Walter Samuel subsequently rose highest for and nodded into the net for what will surely be the most basic of set piece goals in the Champions League this season.

Despite the best efforts of Eden Hazard, who’s isolated moments of brilliance troubled the Inter defence and caused Luca Castellazi to dive to his left desperately on one occasion, the goal calmed Inter who were perfectly content to control the game and release attacks on the counter. Christian Chivu almost doubled the sides tally using this tactic, when he was sent clear and bearing down on Landreau’s goal, but the Romanian International didn’t have the pace, balance or confidence to get a shot off and the opportunity went missing.

The second half begun in similar fashion with Lille’s first half endeavour practically being rendered impotent. Inter’s fragile self-confidence began to grow and with it, the team began teetering further afield and had the best possible chance to seal the points with 40 minutes to spare, when Zarate beat the offside trap and cushioned a header down unselfishly for Diego Milito. Yet it’s evident that this is not the El Principe of 2010 who scored a brace in the final against Bayern Munchen, but a pauper who couldn’t even knock a ball into an open gaping net from 6 yards out but blaze it over.

A couple of minutes later, Inter were in a 3 on 1 situation after a Thiago Motta pass scythed through Lille’s backline, however Milito, clearly with the horrific miss still in his mind selfishly tried to tuck the ball into the far corner to the annoyance of Sneijder and Zarate who saw something that resembled a backpass.

With so many chances going by, it was only inevitable that Inter’s marathon man Javier Zanetti took the game by the scruff of the neck to create the winning goal. The 39 year old roamed into the Lille box and got near to the by line, before firing a ball across goal so inviting that not even Milito in this form could miss. The goal sparked what seemed to be a huge collective sigh of relief in the San Siro for the players, fans, Claudio Ranieri and even Diego Milito himself, who even managed to crack a smile.

Yet it wouldn’t be an Inter match this season without some defensive calamity and sure enough the Nerazzuri of 2011 didn’t disappoint in the 83rd minute. With almost the whole team in the box failing to clear a harmless cross, the ball managed to fall nicely into the path of Lille’s substite De Melio, who coolly lifted the ball over Castellazzi to set up a nervous close to the game.

Now with qualification secure and Inter’s first home victory in the Champions League for four matches, the Nerazzuri will be hoping for more smiles to come in the future.

Make sure to listen to this week’s La Liga Weekly podcast as the panel discuss this match and others…

Qasa Alom

Broadcast Journalist. Writer for Serieaweekly, subtitled online or anyone else daft enough to want me. These are my thoughts (even the clever ones)

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