SPLIT – Inter’s Europa League adventure got off to the best possible start this evening, as the Nerazzurri cruised to a 3-0 victory over Hajduk Split. Sneijder, Nagatomo and Coutinho got themselves on the score sheet. Inter can leave the Poljud cauldron with 35,000 Croatian fans and head back to Milan pleased with their evening’s work.
FIRST HALF – As expected, a red-hot reception awaited Inter at the Stadion Poljud as the Nerazzurri began their latest European adventure wearing the new red away kit. Stramaccioni went with Silvestre and Chivu in front of Handanovic, Jonathan and Nagatomo as full-backs, Zanetti, Cambiasso and Guarin in midfield and Palacio, Milito and Sneijder in attack.
Captain Zanetti – just two games away from reaching the incredible milestone of 800 club appearances – was featuring in a European fixture for the 150th time.
Meanwhile Hajduk Split and Inter were locking horns for the first time. Hajduk means ‘fighter’ and the Croatians lived up to their name from the opening salvos. Inter were game for a fight though and took the lead in the 18th minute. Milito did well to thread the ball through to Sneijder and the Dutchman showed great close control to dribble past a couple of Hajduk defenders and smash his finish into the top corner.
Inter cranked up their passing game up after the goal but the hosts kept looking for a way through. The Nerazzurri doubled their lead on 44 minutes thanks to a right-footed curler from Nagatomo – picked out by Sneijder – and a helpful deflection off Maloca which left Blazevic stranded.
One minute’s added time was played before Stramaccioni’s side went in at half time leading Hajduk Split by two goals to nil.
SECOND HALF – Samuel replaced Chivu at half time as Inter came out after the break and continued to stamp their authority on the game, Hajduk apparently lacking the strength to fight their way back. They had a go but failed to keep their wits about them in the danger area.
The Nerazzurri dished out more punishment in the 73rd minute when Coutinho, having replaced Sneijder shortly before, scored a beauty: a couple of neat exchanges on the left flank saw Palacio free the young Brazilian, who entered the box and tucked his shot just inside the far post.
With ten minutes to go Handanovic was called into action, the big Slovene standing his ground to deny Maglica.
So, after two minutes of added time, Inter emerged as 3-0 victors and already have one foot in the Europa League play-offs. Meanwhile Hajduk left the pitch to a long, affectionate applause from their fans. Isn’t European football great?
Hajduk Split 0-3 Inter (HT: 0-2)
Scorers: Snejder 18, Nagatomo 44, Coutinho 73.
Hajduk Split: 1 Blazevic; 6 Vrsajevic, 22 Maloca, 5 Milovic, 17 Jozinovic; 7 Andrijasevic (4 Milic, 54), 14 Radosevic; 11 Oremus (29 Tomas, 77), 18 Caktas, 20 Ozobic (9 Maglica, 46); 13 Vukusic.
Subs: 19 Vugdelida, 16 Lustica, 24 Vukovic, 27 Jonjic.
Coach: Miso Krsticevic.
Inter: 1 Handanovic; 42 Jonathan, 6 Silvestre, 26 Chivu (25 Samuel, 46), 55 Nagatomo; 4 Zanetti, 19 Cambiasso, 14 Guarin; 8 Palacio, 22 Milito (88 Livaja, 76), 10 Sneijder (7 Coutinho, 65).
Subs: 12 Castellazzi, 16 Mudingayi, 24 Benassi, 33 Mbaye.
Coach: Andrea Stramaccioni.
Referee: Hüseyin Göcek.
Booked: Maloca 18.
Added time: 1+2 minutes.