Christian Eriksen scored his first Inter goal and Romelu Lukaku converted a stoppage-time penalty for a precious 2-0 win away to Ludogorets in the Europa League Round of 32.
The Nerazzurri dropped down into this tournament after finishing third in their Champions League group. Christian Eriksen was given the keys to the midfield for this first leg, Alexis Sanchez alongside Lautaro Martinez, as Marcelo Brozovic, Samir Handanovic, Milan Skriniar, Stefano Sensi, Sebastiano Esposito, Roberto Gagliardini and Alessandro Bastoni didn’t make the journey to Bulgaria. Ludogorets changed coach in January, bringing in Pavel Vrba, dropping Jody Lukoki and Renan after contract disputes. Jorginho and top scorer Claudiu Keseru suffered injuries and couldn’t even make the bench.
Inter almost scored in the opening minutes, Cristiano Biraghi’s effort deflected at the back post on the Victor Moses cross. However, the tempo soon slowed dramatically, the Nerazzurri reduced to a long-range Matias Vecino attempt way over the bar.
The frustration got to Lautaro Martinez, who flung himself into a tackle to press the defenders and was booked, meaning he will be suspended for the second leg.
Another Moses cross found Biraghi at the far post, this time for a fine volley that was parried from close range by Plamen Iliev.
Eriksen chested down an Alexis Sanchez cross, but hesitated when one-on-one with Iliev.
The Chilean almost scored a great opener on 49 minutes, another low Moses cross from the right for a cheeky back-heel flick, but it bounced off the upright from six yards, as Iliev got a foot to it.
Andrea Ranocchia’s header and a Lautaro strike flew over the bar, while Borja Valero had to block a dangerous counter-attack when Diego Godin was dispossessed.
Alexis failed to make the most of a Lautaro Martinez back-heel assist, but Eriksen thought he’d scored his first goal in an Inter jersey when hitting a volley into the ground from the edge of the area, but Iliev got down really well to palm it out of the bottom corner.
Nedyalkov hit a ferocious strike not far wide after a corner, but the deadlock was finally broken after Romelu Lukaku replaced Lautaro Martinez.
The Belgian provided the assist for Eriksen to drill into the bottom corner with his right foot from just outside the box, his first goal since joining the Nerazzurri.
Moments later, it was almost a brace, as this time the Dane smashed it with his left foot from the same position, rattling the crossbar.
Vecino and Alexis Sanchez had attempts charged down, while in stoppages Eriksen’s corner was flicked on by Godin, inches from both the back post and Danilo D’Ambrosio. However, VAR was used for the first time to see that Anicet handled in that incident, so he was booked and will be suspended for the second leg. Romelu Lukaku converted the penalty for a 2-0 first leg away victory.
Ludogorets 0-2 Inter
Eriksen 71 (I), R Lukaku pen 95 (I)
Ludogorets: Iliev; Cicinho, Terziev, Grigore, Nedyalkov; Dyakov (Badji 67), Anicet, Cauly (Biton 90); Marcelinho, Swierczok (Tchibota 76), Wanderson
Inter: Padelli; Godin, Ranocchia, D’Ambrosio; Moses (Barella 72), Vecino, Borja Valero, Eriksen, Biraghi (Young 81); Lautaro Martinez (R Lukaku 64), Alexis Sanchez
Ref: Carlos del Cerro Grande (ESP)
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