KIEV – Inter got their Europa League group stage campaign off to a solid start after a narrow 0-1 win against Dnipro tonight. After an evenly-matched first half, Danilo D’Ambrosio broke the deadlock in the 71st minute, showing great control in a crowded penalty box to slot the ball home. Minutes beforehand, the Dnipro captain, Ruslan Rotan, had been dismissed for a second bookable offence after a clumsy challenge on Guarin.
The match marked the beginning of the Nerazzurri’s Europa League adventure proper. The game was played in Kiev, a neutral ground, as a result of the continued political unrest in the region. This was the same city in which Inter kick-started their dream of winning an historic triple, producing a magnificent comeback against Dynamo to put them top of their Champions League group.
Inter lined up with Handanovic between the sticks, behind a back three of Campagnaro, Vidic and Juan Jesus. D’Ambrosio and Dodo played as wingbacks, with M’Vila anchoring a midfield trio completed by Kuzmanovic and Hernanes. Guarin was deployed in the hole, whilst Icardi led the line.
There was a measured start to the game, with Inter dominating possession and searching for the breakthrough via a number of dangerous free kicks. The match was played out largely in the Dnipro half, with the Ukrainians rarely managing to break out of their defensive lines. One such foray was ended when Kuzmanovic brought down talented midfielder Konoplyanka, earning the Inter man a yellow card from the referee.
Kuzmanovic was again involved on 36 minutes, rising to meet a dangerous cross from D’Ambrosio only for the ball to finish on the roof on the Ukrainians’ net. Despite the first half ending goalless, Inter could take heart from having bossed the match and would be forgiven for feeling aggrieved after a handball from Mazuch in the penalty area went unnoticed.
The second half started exactly where the first left off, with Inter in total control and Dnipro looking to catch the Italians on the break. On 54 minutes, D’Ambrosio had a great chance to put the Nerazzurri in front, stealing into the Ukrainians’ box and catching the defence off guard. However, Boyko, the Dnipro goalkeeper, had other ideas, pulling off splendid saves first from D’Ambrosio and immediately afterwards from the lurking Icardi.
Minutes later, Konoplyanka looked to beat Handanovic with a curling shot that whistled past the goalkeeper’s left post. Mazzarri rolled the dice, bringing on Osvaldo for Kuzmanovic as the Nerazzurri went in search of the win.
Dnipro were reduced to ten men when Rotan brought Guarin down, earning him a second yellow card and an early bath. It proved to be the turning point of the match, with the winner coming soon afterwards in the 71st minute.
The impressive D’Ambrosio gathered a pass from Guarin, bursting into the area and showing great close control before poking the ball past Boyko and into the net. It was a goal that reflected the Nerazzurri’s superiority over the 90 minutes, and was no less than they deserved.
Jonathan was the other sub used, brought on for Hernanes in the 77th minute. Inter saw out the remainder of the match comfortably, and after just three minutes’ stoppage time, victory was confirmed. The Nerazzurri go top of the group, thanks to a goalless draw between Qarabag and St. Etienne.
It was important to kick on from the weekend’s thrashing of Sassuolo, and Walter Mazzarri’s side managed to do exactly that against a team that, until tonight, had won ten out of their last twelve home matches, drawing the other two.
The next European engagement for Inter comes on 2 October at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, against the Azerbaijani outfit Qarabag. Until then, the Nerazzurri must put all their efforts into building on their impressive start to the Serie A campaign.
Dnipro 0-1 Inter (HT 0-0)
Scorer: D’Ambrosio, 71
Inter: 1 Handanovic; 14 Campagnaro, 15 Vidic, 5 Juan Jesus; 33 D’Ambrosio, 88 Hernanes (Jonathan, 77), 90 M’Vila, 17 Kuzmanovic (Osvaldo 62), 22 Dodò; 13 Guarin; 9 Icardi.
Unused subs: 30 Carrizo, 6 Andreolli, 8 Palacio, 20 Obi, 23 Ranocchia.
Coach: Walter Mazzarri.
Dnipro: 71 Boyko; 44 Fedetskiy, 23 Douglas, 3 Mazuch, 17 Strinic; 20 Bruno Gama, 7 Kankava, 29 Rotan, 4 Kravchenko (Shakhov, 67, Luchkevych, 74); 10 Konoplyanka; 18 Zozulya (Kalinic, 79).
Unused subs: 9 Kalinic, 14 Cheberyachko, 16 Lastuvka, 24 Luchkevych, 28 Shakhov, 89 Politylo.
Coach: Myron Markevych.
Referee: Felix Zwayer.
Assistant referees: Henschel, Achmuller.
Additional assistants: Dankert, Siebert.
Fourth official: Willenborg.
Booked: Strinic, Rotan, Zozulya, Kuzmanovic, Strinic.
Sent off: Rotan.