MILAN – In the end Inter could only draw with Saint-Etienne but it’s a point gained and a game less to play. The Nerazzurri remain unbeaten (with the defence unbreached) in Europe and command Group F from the top of the pile.
There are other positives to take too, one of which jumps out at you when you run your eye down the line-ups: the number of youngsters in Walter Mazzarri’s side. A team with an average age of 25. A clear sign of things to come.
Inter began on the front foot and within two minutes Guarin was lining up his sights. The Colombian couldn’t manage to keep his effort down but he was clearly up for it on the night he was named captain against his former club. With ten minutes on the clock his through ball found Icardi and the Argentine drove into the box before taking aim, only to sadly lash over the bar.
The Nerazzurri were on top in the opening minutes. Kovacic supplied with Icardi with another (difficult) chance then Andreolli did well to win the ball and orchestrate an attack, playing in Guarin: the midfielder burst past Bayal but was beaten to the ball by Rufflier.
Buoyed by a large and vociferous travelling crowd, Saint-Étienne were also in the game. Theophile-Catherine looked the likeliest man to grab a goal for the visitors, going close with a header that flew over the bar. And Cristophe Galtier’s men ended the half on the attack with a free kick from 35 yards, which Tabanou opted to blast goalward, Carrizo reacting swiftly to lift it over the bar.
Shortly after the interval M’Vila was forced to leave the pitch and Hernanes came on in his place.
The Nerazzurri were still looking for that breakthrough but Rufflier was again alert to get down and tip the Serb’s low angled effort round the post.
Saint-Étienne upped the tempo of their play in the second period and fashioned two opportunities for Theophile-Catherine inside ten minutes. The wideman then set up Tabanou, whose first-time strike was was dealt with by Carrizo. The Argentine shotstopper repeated the feat from the same man a minute later.
After that Inter came to the fore once again. On 82 minutes Dodo whipped in a cross that was inches away from reaching substitute Palacio but it proved to be the last real opening of the match.
Inter move up to seven points in the Group F table and now turn their attentions to domestic duties: a visit to Cesena for a 18:00 kick-off awaits on Sunday.
Inter 0-0 Saint-Etienne
Inter: 30 Carrizo; 6 Andreolli, 15 Vidic, 5 Juan Jesus; 25 Mbaye, 17 Kuzmanovic (44 Krhin, 85), 90 M’Vila (88 Hernanes, 53), 10 Kovacic, 22 Dodo; 13 Guarin (8 Palacio, 70); 9 Icardi.
Subs not used: 1 Handanovic, 20 Obi, 23 Ranocchia, 44 Krhin, 97 Bonazzoli.
Coach: Walter Mazzarri.
Saint-Étienne: 16 Ruffier; 2 Theophile-Catherine, 26 Bayal Sall, 24 Perrin, 19 F.Pogba (23 Baysse, 78); 18 Lemoine, 6 Clement, 28 Diomande (10 Cohade, 85); 21 Hamouma, 13 Van Wolfswinkel (22 Monnet-Paquet, 67), 27 Tabanou.
Subs not used: 30 Moulin, 7 Gradel, 12 Saint-Maximin, 20 Brison.
Coach: Christophe Galtier.
Referee: Anthony Taylor (ENG).
Booked: Bayal Sall 42, Juan Jesus 80, Hernanes 89.
Added time: 1+3 minutes.