09.12.09 / 22:44
MILAN - Inter guaranteed their passage into the Champions League last sixteen with a comfortable 2-0 victory over newly-crowned Russian champions Rubin Kazan in Milan.
Samuel Eto'o scored his first European goal in a black and blue shirt and Mario Balotelli added a second-half screamer to see José Mourinho's side qualify as runners-up to Barcelona, who topped Group F after their 2-1 win at Dynamo Kiev.
Inter were boosted by the return of Wesley Sneijder behind the strikers and Maicon at right-back, with Balotelli the surprise starter in an attacking starting lineup. The visitors deployed their habitual 4-4-1-1 formation with Karadeniz behind lone striker Dominguez.
Inter were the quicker of the two teams to settle into a rhythm, and were first to threaten when Balotelli received from Thiago Motta just outside the area, turned quickly and had a strong shot saved by Ryzhikov.
Ivan Ramiro Cordoba was thrown into the fray earlier than he expected when Walter Samuel pulled up with a thigh injury with less than fifteen minutes on the clock.
After a sluggish start Rubin came forward with more confidence and Karadeniz opened a sustained attack on Julio Cesar's goal with a shot that the Brazilian keeper did brilliantly to parry behind for a corner.
The Russian's momentum was quickly stifled a minute past the half-hour mark. Zanetti made mincemeat of Salukvadze and Popov on the left and worked the ball to the by-line where the quick-thinking Balotelli was on hand to play a back-heeled pass to Eto'o who crashed an unstoppable left-footed shot past Ryzhikov.
Inter fired more warning signs before the break, with Sneijder rifling narrowly over after more inspirational play by Zanetti down the wing, and Maicon forcing a difficult save from Ryzhikov with a snapshot from 18 yards out.
A further injury blow shortly after the restart saw Cambiasso on in place of Stankovic. The Argentine slotted into a holding role and the Nerazzurri held on their advantage, Rubin's only meaningful chance of the second half falling to Dominguez who saw his diagonal shot well saved by Julio Cesar.
Balotelli wrapped up our first home win in Europe since last season's victory over Anorthosis Famagusta, with a magnificent drilled 35-yard free kick that gave Ryzhikov no chance.
Sneijder almost scored a third after Balotelli and Milito launched a swift attack, but his effort from the edge of the box hit the upright.
Inter 2-0 Rubin Kazan (HT: 1-0)
Scorers: Eto'o 31, Balotelli 64.
Inter: 12 Julio Cesar; 13 Maicon, 6 Lucio, 25 Samuel (2 Cordoba 15), 4 Zanetti; 5 Stankovic (19 Cambiasso 53), 8 Thiago Motta; 45 Balotelli (11 Muntari 77), 10 Sneijder, 9 Eto'o; 22 Milito.
Subs not used: 1 Toldo, 14 Vieira, 18 Suazo, 23 Materazzi.
Coach: José Mourinho.
Rubin Kazan: 77 Ryzhikov; 9 Salukvadze, 24 Popov, 4 Cesar Navas, 19 Kaleshin; 15 Ryazantsev (23 Balyaykin 84), 16 Noboa (5 Bystrov 81), 7 Semak, 42 Murawski; 61 Karadeniz (88 Kasaev 73); 10 Dominguez.
Subs not used: 29 Revishvili, 3 Ansaldi, 6 Sibaya, 32 Gorbanets.
Coach: Kurban Berdyev.
Referee: Pieter Vink (Holland).
Booked: Murawski 28, Cesar Navas 43, Balotelli 46, Lucio 68.
Group F standings:
Rubin Kazan 6
Dynamo Kiev 5