Handanovic saves sixth straight penalty

The 30-year-old is proving unbeatable from 12 yards after bailing his side yet again in the Europa League on Thursday

Samir Handanovic played down his penalty heroics after saving a sixth straight spot-kick in Inter’s 2-1 Europa League victory over Dnipro in Group F.

Zdravko Kuzmanovic and Pablo Osvaldo scored to cancel out Ruslan Rotan’s early strike for the visitors and send the Nerazzurri into the next round, but the win was far from straight forward.

Handanovic saved yet another penalty in the first half to stop Dnipro from doubling their advantage, while Inter had Andrea Rannochia sent off early in the second half for two bookings.

“It’s my job to make saves and I try to do it as best I can,” the 30-year-old said after the game.

“We had to work hard for this win. We lacked a bit of conviction at the start and we weren’t playing well but afterwards we showed the right spirit.

“Did Inter struggle with four at the back? That doesn’t make any difference. The main thing is the mentality the team has.”

Handanovic had saved his previous five penalties against Verona, Cagliari, Torino, Parma, and Sampdoria prior to Thursday’s game.

Inter 2-1 Dnipro: Osvaldo fires Nerazzurri into last 32

Ruslan Rotan put the visitors into a surprise lead, threatening Roberto Mancini’s men with a loss, but the former Roma man added to Zdravko Kuzmanovic’s leveller to seal a win

Inter bounced back from an early scare to defeat Dnipro 2-1 on Thursday and reach the last 32 of the Europa League.

Inter were made to work in order to give coach Roberto Mancini a perfect 50th birthday present after the visitors claimed an early lead through Ruslan Rotan’s volley.

Dnipro should have doubled their lead before the interval, only for Samir Handanovic to save yet another penalty, from Yevhen Konoplyanka. Zdravko Kuzmanovic equalised for Inter after 30 minutes, but the Serie A side were handed another setback within a minute of the second half starting as captain Andrea Ranocchia received a second booking.

Nevertheless, Osvaldo found the net in the 50th minute and further Handanovic heroics, together with a goalline clearance and a disallowed Dnipro goal, ensured Inter hung on and stretched their unbeaten home run in European competition to 10 matches.

They are now guaranteed to play in the round of 32, while Dnipro, Qarabag and Saint-Etienne could all claim the second qualifying spot in the final round of pool matches.

For the first European game of his second spell in charge, Mancini made three changes from the derby draw with Milan, including recalls for Osvaldo and Hernanes.

The Ukranian side settled quicker than their hosts and shocked San Siro after 15 minutes as Juan Jesus was caught in possession and the ball eventually found Konoplyanka. His venomous strike was parried away by Handanovic, but Rotan followed up to volley in from close range.

It was exactly what the visitors deserved and Inter skipper Ranocchia was lucky to escape a second yellow card when he cynically blocked Nikola Kalinic in the 24th minute.

Dnipro’s lead should have been doubled when Yevhen Cheberyachko was bundled over in the area by Fredy Guarin and the referee pointed to the spot.

However, penalty-saving specialist Handanovic guessed right to repel Konoplyanka’s poor effort for his fourth penalty save this season.

Inter made the most of their reprieve on the half hour when a Hernanes free-kick was not properly cleared and fell to Kuzmanovic, who stabbed home inside the area.

Mancini’s men were revitalised and four minutes later, a flowing move ended with the onrushing Yuto Nagatomo lashing wide under pressure from Denys Boyko. The challenge forced the Inter player off with a shoulder injury.

Dnipro soon reminded Inter of their own threat, Douglas putting a free header over when well placed. Inter’s plans were then thrown into chaos within a minute of the restart as Ranocchia was beaten to the ball by Rotan and brought down the Dnipro goalscorer in the process, earning a second yellow card.

Despite their numerical disadvantage, Inter went ahead when Osvaldo beat the offside trap to latch onto a Hernanes pass and slotted home with ease from eight yards for his sixth goal of the season.

Dnipro were not done, though, and somehow failed to equalise two minutes later when Kalinic was superbly denied by Handanovic and the Croatian’s rebound was hacked off the line by Juan.

The away side thought they had an equaliser two minutes from time when Konoplyanka’s delightful free kick was headed in by Yevhen Seleznyov but the offside flag was up, much to Inter’s relief.

Ibrahimovic includes Messi, Xavi & Iniesta in Dream XI

The Sweden international has compiled his personal dream team consisting of former and current team-mates, including Xavi, Lionel Messi and Gianluigi Buffon in the side

Paris Saint-Germain star Zlatan Ibrahimovic has included former Barcelona team-mates Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta and Xavi in his Dream XI.

The Sweden star referred to the trio as “schoolboys” in his autobiography, but says he has nothing but respect for their performances on the pitch.

The 33-year-old has picked Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon as his No.1, referring to the Italy international as “the wall”.

Furthermore, Lilian Thuram (nicknamed “the animal”), Thiago Silva (complete), Fabio Cannavaro (the pitbull) and Maxwell (elegant) make up his four-man defence.

Ibrahimovic goes with Iniesta (magic), Patrick Vieira (the leader), Xavi (perfect) and Pavel Nedved (the machine) in midfield.

His dream XI is completed by Messi (the genius) and Ibrahimov himself (the god).

Ibrahimovic XI (4-4-2): Buffon; Thuram, Thiago Silva, Cannavaro, Maxwell; Iniesta, Vieira, Xavi, Nedved; Messi, Ibrahimovic

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Mancini: Vidic's Serie A struggles are normal

The Nerazzurri coach says that that the Serbia defender will need time to settle in Serie A following his summer switch from Manchester United

Roberto Mancini insists that there is nothing unusual in the fact that Nemanja Vidic is struggling at Inter this season.

The Serbian defender was expected to make a major impact at San Siro following his free transfer from Manchester United during the summer but he has been heavily criticised for a string of error-strewn performances thus far.

However, former Manchester City boss Mancini, who replaced Walter Mazzarri as coach during the international break, is in no doubt that the former Red Devils captain will soon settle in Serie A.

“I’ve known him since the two of us were in Manchester and I’m sure he’ll be useful to us,” he told Inter’s official website on Wednesday.

“It’s quite normal to encounter difficulties coming here because Italian football is totally different to the Premier League.”

While Vidic is currently floundering, Mateo Kovacic is flourishing, with the Croatia international earning rave reviews for his performances in the Inter midfield.

Consequently, the 20-year-old is being linked with a move with a number of Europe’s elite, but Mancini is nonplussed by the attention that the playmaker is receiving.

“It’s not surprising that he should receive offers,” the former Galatasaray boss mused. “That happens to all good players.

“We’re lucky to have him here with us. We need to help him fulfil his potential so that he can really make a difference in the years to come.”

Mancini will be hoping that Kovacic can inspire Inter to victory in Thursday’s Europa League clash with Dnipro, with the Nerazzurri needing a victory to clinch top spot in Group F.

Indeed, the 49-year-old trainer insists that he intends to name a strong starting line-up for the game at the Giuseppe Meazza – despite the fact that his troops face a tricky trip to Roma on Sunday.

“I may change a few things around but we must concentrate on one game at a time,” Mancini explained. “We’ll put out our best team. There’ll be time to worry about Roma later.

“The league and Europa League are also two routes we have available to us if we’re to get back into the Champions League and we must succeed in one of them.

“The Europa League is an important competition because the winner qualifies for the Champions League and because it means you get to play the European Super Cup.”

Mancini: I would love to manage Arsenal

The Italian, who guided Manchester City to their first Premier League title in 44 years, insists “there is still time” for him to take charge of the Gunners

Roberto Mancini has revealed he wanted to manage Arsenal but admits he is still open to the possibility of succeeding Arsene Wenger.

The Italian, who turns 50 on Thursday, guided Manchester City to their first Premier League title in 44 years in 2012 before being sacked the following season.

Mancini recently returned to Inter for his second stint as manager. In his first spell at the club which lasted four years, he won three Serie A titles.

“I would have loved to have managed Arsenal, a club with a special charm. But there is still time,” Mancini told Il Corriere dello Sport.

“Where do I see myself at 60? As coach of the Italian national team.”

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