Fredy Guarin’s brace secured a 3-0 win away to Cluj, 5-0 on aggregate, as Inter go through to face Tottenham in the next phase of the Europa League.
The Nerazzurri won the first leg 2-0 at San Siro, though the night was ruined by Diego Milito’s serious knee injury. The Milan Derby is on Sunday night, but injured and cup-tied players left few real alternatives for Andrea Stramaccioni in this Round of 32.
Rui Pedro had an early scoring opportunity for Cluj, as he curled just off target from a Robert Muresan assist, but Muresan then limped off.
Inter responded with Antonio Cassano springing the offside trap on an Esteban Cambiasso through ball only to balloon over from inside the box.
Robert Maah curled off target and Mateo Kovacic was booked for a handling offence when he stopped a Cluj counter-attack.
Inter broke the deadlock with their first genuine scoring opportunity. Ricky Alvarez started the move at the touchline around the halfway mark, his pass allowed Palacio to burst down the right and roll across the face of goal for the unmarked Fredy Guarin to side-foot into an empty net.
The Nerazzurri could now afford to sit back and focus on the counter-attack, which proved dangerous first with Palacio, then with Cassano’s pull-back a little too deep to reach Guarin.
Goalkeeper Felgueiras dived to palm Palacio’s angled drive off target from another Cassano assist. Aware the situation was difficult, Cluj changed to a 4-3-1-2 by introducing Pantelis Kapetanos.
However, Cluj really did shoot themselves in the foot. Guarin ran into the box and a heavy touch seemed to give the ball to Mario Felgueiras, but the goalkeeper incredibly fumbled and Alvarez was alert to roll it back into the path of Guarin, who passed into the net from six yards.
Now 4-0 up on aggregate and with the Derby della Madonnina on Sunday, Stramaccioni rested Palacio for Marco Benassi.
Samir Handanovic made a rare save on Rui Pedro’s shot, which was deflected off Cambiasso’s back, palming it away for a corner.
Ioan Hora had a great chance for Cluj on 69 minutes, as he broke free and smashed the half-volley straight at Handanovic at the near post, as the Inter goalkeeper did not seem to know too much about it.
The Romanians had a double chance soon after, as Kapetanos saw his shot charged down and then Hora’s follow-up was blocked by Alvaro Pereira.
Handanovic was again called into action on a powerful Camora angled drive. However, moments later Camora was sent off for tripping Benassi when he sprung the offside trap on Cassano’s pass and was running into the box alone.
There were concerns in the final seven minutes, as Andrea Ranocchia hobbled off with a knee problem.
Inter still managed to get another goal, as Benassi ran on to a splendid Cassano chipped pass and at full stretch prodded it past the on-rushing goalkeeper. It was the 18-year-old midfielder’s first professional goal.
Cluj had their best chance of the game deep into stoppages, when Hora beat Handanovic with a lob that thumped the crossbar.
Cluj 0-3 Inter (0-5 on agg)
Scorers: Guarin 22, 45 (I), Benassi 89 (I)
Cluj: Mario Felgueiras; Cadu, Piccolo, Rada (Kapetanos 37); Ivo Pinto, Sepsi, Godemeche, Camora; Muresan (Hora 9); Rui Pedro (Diogo Valente 71), Maah
Inter: Handanovic; Zanetti, Ranocchia, Juan, Alvaro Pereira; Guarin (Mbaye 67), Cambiasso, Kovacic, Alvarez (Pasa 54); Palacio (Benassi 46), Cassano
Ref: Gil (POL)
Sent off: Camora 79 (C)
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