Cristiano Biraghi and a comical Romelu Lukaku header proved enough for Inter to push past Ludogorets 2-1, a 4-1 aggregate score, in an empty San Siro.
This Europa League Round of 32 second leg tie was played behind closed doors at San Siro due to the Coronavirus outbreak in Italy, which was largely localised in the Lombardy region.
The Nerazzurri had won the first leg 2-0 in Bulgaria, so could rotate the squad a little in the build-up to Sunday’s Scudetto showdown with Juventus in Turin. Samir Handanovic, Roberto Gagliardini, Stefano Sensi and Kwadwo Asamoah were still unavailable, with Lautaro Martinez suspended. Ludogorets had Anicet Abel banned and Jorginho injured, but top scorer Claudiu Keseru was back.
Romelu Lukaku went on an early counter from a Ludogorets corner, forcing a Plamen Iliev save in a one-on-one situation, while Wanderson’s glancing header was smothered by Daniele Padelli.
Christian Eriksen saw his strike deflected over and Alexis Sanchez’s curler was beaten away, but Ludogorets took the lead thanks to some sluggish defending.
Diego Godin made a half-hearted attempt to intercept a cross from the right, Cauly Souza was stronger and able to fire in off the underside of the bar from six yards. This made it 2-1 on aggregate and suddenly not such a foregone conclusion.
Victor Moses had penalty appeals waved away for a Svetoslav Dyakov tackle, as after a long silent check from the VAR booth, play was allowed to continue.
Inter got back on track moments later, as Eriksen’s through ball found Cristiano Biraghi down the left and his cross-shot was deflected in from a tight angle. It was Biraghi’s first official goal in the Nerazzurri jersey.
Nicolò Barella’s scorcher was palmed round the base of the upright and on the resulting corner Andrea Ranocchia nodded wide, while Borja Valero charged down Marcelinho’s attempt.
Inter went into the break 2-1 up thanks to a comical goal from Lukaku. Alexis Sanchez chipped a pass over the top for his header, which was again straight at Iliev, but it ricocheted back off the Belgian’s head as he was lying on the ground and into the net.
Alexis Sanchez hit a scorcher from 20 metres out that struck the underside of the bar to bounce back out, with Iliev given no chance.
Lukaku just failed to get his head to a Moses cross from the right, then his angled drive was fingertipped on to the base of the far upright by Iliev.
Inter almost allowed an equaliser from substitute Jakub Swierczok, but Daniele Padelli got down well for a one-handed save, while Mavis Tchibota cut inside to skim the bar with a curler.
Inter 2-1 Ludogorets (4-1 agg)
Cauly 26 (L), Biraghi 31 (I), R Lukaku 45 (I)
Inter: Padelli; D'Ambrosio (Bastoni 76), Ranocchia, Godin; Moses, Barella (Brozovic 46), Borja Valero, Eriksen, Biraghi; R Lukaku (Esposito 62), Alexis Sanchez
Ludogorets: Iliev; Cicinho, Terziev, Grigore, Nedyalkov; Marcelinho (Biton 83), Dyakov, Badji; Wanderson (Tchibota 70), Keseru (Swierczok 64), Cauly Souza
Ref: Siebert (GER)
Watch Serie A live in the UK on Premier Sports for just £9.99 per month including live LaLiga, Eredivisie, Scottish Cup Football and more. Visit: https://www.premiersports.com/subscribenow