Inter scraped through to the Europa League despite playing with 10 men for an hour, as Rodrigo Palacio and Fredy Guarin snatched a 2-2 draw with Vaslui.
The Nerazzurri had won the first leg 2-0 in Romania, but gave new buy Antonio Cassano, Rodrigo Palacio and Philippe Coutinho the keys to the attack. Douglas Maicon was not even on the bench, fuelling reports of an imminent Manchester City move, while Samir Handanovic is among those injured.
Before kick-off Julio Cesar fought back tears as he said goodbye to the fans after seven years at the club. The goalkeeper, who has signed for QPR, read out a letter and saluted his teammates.
Cassano curled a free kick into the box for the head of Walter Samuel after 12 minutes, whose powerful finish was nodded on to the crossbar from eight yards.
Liviu Antal took advantage of a Samuel defensive error, but his pull-back failed to reach his teammate Sabrin Sburlea in a very dangerous situation.
Ousmane N’Doye also drilled over from distance, but Cassano sent Coutinho through with a diagonal pass and the Brazilian’s angled drive was fingertipped inches past the base of the far post.
There was a huge turning point in the game, as Antal ran on to a long Nicolae Stanciu ball over the top – Samuel getting the offside trap wrong – and was brought down by Luca Castellazzi in a one-on-one. The penalty and red card were inevitable, so Cassano was substituted to make way for third choice goalkeeper Vid Belec.
The replacement’s first task was to pick the ball out of the net, as Stanciu converted the spot-kick by sending Belec the wrong way.
Jonathan ballooned off target when Coutinho and Yuto Nagatomo were in better positions to shoot.
Samuel had made several mistakes in the first half, so was substituted by Fredy Guarin after the break, moving Juan Jesus to centre-back and Nagatomo to full-back.
Coutinho had a great chance, cutting in from the left to unleash a curler towards the far bottom corner, but it was charged down. Javier Zanetti skipped past two defenders down the right and crossed for Palacio, who mistimed his run. From the corner, Catalin Straton fumbled the catch and was fortunate to get away with it as Esteban Cambiasso prodded wide.
Guarin dummied a free kick into the centre, but instead hit it at the exposed near bottom corner and Straton scrambled back just in time to palm it round the post.
Vaslui burst forward on the counter-attack from that corner and Guarin rushed back to make a crucial tactical foul on Antal.
Zanetti remained the most lively and dangerous of the Inter players, again flying past defenders to set up a promising attack for Palacio, whose angled drive was deflected on to the side-netting.
Inter were caught out with a double Nagatomo defensive distraction for a dangerous pull-back from the by-line, but fortunately for them Adrian Salageanu blasted off target.
However, it was the Nerazzurri who struck with a classic counter-attack from Vaslui’s attacking move. Coutinho broke from his own half and sprinted forward from just outside the box, then placed a perfect angled pass on to the feet of Palacio. The ex-Genoa striker cut in to surprise Lucian Sanmartean and smashed past the on-rushing goalkeeper. It was Inter’s first home goal in the Europa League this season.
However, just as their confidence was back up, Inter gifted Vaslui a goal. Third choice ‘keeper Belec completely mistimed his catch from a corner, allowing Fernando Varela to nod into an empty net from six yards.
Guarin needed another tactical foul and was booked for bringing down Antal on the counter, then Palacio forced the same situation at the other end on Sanmartean. An inspired Guarin pass sent Palacio clear again, but a stunning one-handed Straton save denied the powerful shot on the half-volley.
In stoppages Belec had to rush off his line and flap the ball off the head of N’Doye from a long free kick.
Guarin won a tough challenge in midfield and charged forward, skipping past two tackles and drawing out the goalkeeper to blast into the net with a right-foot angled drive that squirmed under Straton. It was the last kick of the game and sealed qualification.
Inter 2-2 Vaslui (4-2 on agg)
Scorers: Stanciu pen 35 (V), Palacio 76 (I), Varela 79 (V), Guarin 92 (I)
Inter: Castellazzi; Jonathan (Ranocchia 82), Silvestre, Samuel (Guarin 46), Juan Jesus; Zanetti, Cambiasso; Nagatomo; Coutinho, Cassano (Belec 34), Palacio
Vaslui: Straton; Cordos, Varela, Celeban, Salageanu; Caue (Sanmartean 58), N'Doye; Tukura, Stanciu (Buhaescu 78), Antal; Sburle
Ref: De Sousa (POR)
Sent off: Castellazzi 33 (I)
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