Thursday August 2 2012
Europa Inter conquer Hajduk

Inter made short work of Hajduk Split with a commanding 3-0 Europa League qualifier first leg victory in Croatia, including a Philippe Coutinho gem.

The Nerazzurri had to start from the Third Preliminary Round of the Europa League because they finished sixth in Serie A last season. The first leg was in Split with the return at San Siro on August 9.

Douglas Maicon, Julio Cesar and Giampaolo Pazzini were left off the UEFA list, as they are on the market, while Andrea Ranocchia missed out because he is due to testify in the betting scandal tomorrow morning.

Hajduk were without Tino-Sven Susic and relied on captain Ante Vukusic in attack. Inter lined up in their new all-red away strip and a Christmas Tree formation led by Diego Milito, while President Massimo Moratti was also in the stands at the Poljud Stadium.

Filip Ozobic put a dangerous ball across the face of goal with nobody able to turn it in, while Wesley Sneijder’s shot was charged down on the counter.

Inter took the lead with another counter-attack, this time successful. Milito did the leg-work, hooking down a long pass and holding it up for Sneijder, but the Dutchman took an eternity to finish it off, waiting to shrug off a couple of diving tackles and draw out the goalkeeper before eventually blasting under the bar from 12 yards.

Palacio came close to a second, but was flagged offside when going one-on-one. Jonathan had a promising run down the right and his cross-shot took a strange bounce off the turf, almost taking Goran Blazevic by surprise at the near post.

Ozobic and Goran Jozinovic had efforts blocked on the edge of the Inter box and Vukusic nodded over the bar.

The Nerazzurri went 2-0 up just before the break thanks to a truly bizarre goal. A Yuto Nagatomo angled drive took a deflection off Mario Maloca shin and left Blazevic stranded. The ball rebounded over his body as he was going down to cover the far bottom corner.

There are some injury concerns, as Cristian Chivu and Fredy Guarin needed treatment for knocks. The Colombian was able to continue, but Chivu went off with sprained toes to make way for Walter Samuel. Hajduk introduced forward Anton Maglica and defender Antonio Milic.

Esteban Cambiasso risked scoring a third within minutes of the restart, turning his glancing free header wide from six yards on a Jonathan chipped cross.

Jonathan again set up a great chance, Milito’s backheel flick a little too audacious. Vukusic unleashed a screamer from distance that was deflected just over the bar.

Sneijder made way for Coutinho, who had been expected to start the match. The Hajduk goalkeeper had to acrobatically palm a deflected cross out from under the woodwork.

It was 3-0 when substitute Coutinho made his mark with a splendid goal. The young Brazilian waltzed into the box after a give-and-go with Palacio, then picked his spot to curl a snooker shot round the goalkeeper and into the far bottom corner.

As a nice touch, Stramaccioni introduced former Hajduk Split youth team player Marko Livaja as his last substitute in place of Milito. He was not given a warm welcome by the home crowd, though.

Hajduk had a wonderful opportunity to get one back after Maglica sprung the offside trap, but he clumsily tried to lob Samir Handanovic and Nagatomo got back in time for a goalline clearance.

Moments later a howler from Matias Silvestre at the by-line allowed Maglica to go clear on goal, but Handanovic was alert to rush out and spread his body to charge it down from six yards.

Jonathan forced a save out of Blazevic in the final minutes with a powerful angled drive and Guarin's free kick from 25 metres was well over.

Hajduk Split 0-3 Inter

Scorers: Sneijder 18 (I), Nagatomo 44 (I), Coutinho 73 (I)

Hajduk Split: Blazevic; Vrsajevic, Maloca, Milovic, Jozinovic; Andrijasevic (Milic 54), Radosevic; Oremus (Tomas 77), Caktas, Ozobic (Maglica 46); Vukusic

Inter: Handanovic; Jonathan, Silvestre, Chivu (Samuel 46), Nagatomo; Guarin, Cambiasso, Zanetti; Palacio, Sneijder (Coutinho 65); Milito (Livaja 76)

Ref: Gocek (TUR)