PIATRA NEAMT - Andrea Stramaccioni's Nerazzurri began their Europa League play-off tie against Romania's Vaslui in confident fashion tonight. A goal in each half by Cambiasso and Palacio means Inter return from the Stadionul Ceahlaul in Piatra Neamt with a 2-0 victory. Plenty of attacking play from the Nerazzurri: a richly deserved win.
FIRST HALF - Stramaccioni chose Castellazzi to stand in for the injured Handanovic, with Silvestre and Ranocchia the central defensive pairing and Maicon and Zanetti as full-backs. Guarin, Cambiasso and Mudingayi formed a strong three-man midfield while Sneijder and Palacio provided support for frontman Milito.
It was a special night for captain Zanetti, who made his 800th appearance for Inter wearing a specially made armband: "800 appearances, 800 love stories".
Inter began with a sense of purpose, Sneijder and Palacio – but also Maicon and Guarin – getting forward well and the midfield line looking solid. With the game being played at a high tempo, it was Vaslui who fired off the early warning shots with Sanmartean and Niculae probing in the box.
Inter got their noses in front in the 23rd minute: Sneijder's corner was headed clear but only as far as Cambiasso, and the Argentine clipped a sweet volley over the crowded box and down into bottom corner.
The Nerazzurri pushed on looking for a second and Palacio's curler fizzed just wide. The goal seemed to have taken the wind out of Vaslui's sails and Inter had further chances to double their lead in the 34th minute, first following link-up play between Sneijder and Palacio and then through Guarin.
Vaslui weren't giving up but apart from the odd foray from Niculae they were struggling to pose much of a threat. That was until Antal picked out N'Doye in the 40th minute and the veteran midfielder forced a fingertip save out of Castellazzi with a rasping long-range effort.
The Nerazzurri took their foot off the gas a little as the half drew to a close, but they almost grabbed a second on the stroke of half time: Palacio's shot came back off the post. Inter took a 1-0 into the dressing rooms at the break.
SECOND HALF – Vaslui made one change at the interval and took to the field with bit more guile and bite about them, Antal in particular causing problems.
Guarin went close with a curled effort in the 57th minute, yet Inter were finding themselves pressed back more often than in the first period, Vaslui looking especially lively down the right flank. By the time Varga drilled a cross-shot across the six-yard box midway through the half, the Nerazzurri were most certainly on the back foot.
They did manage to break forward a minute afterwards, but Guarin was unable to get enough purchase on his shot. Another minute passed and another chance, Charalambou inches away from finding an equaliser.
Inter doubled their lead in the 73rd minute: Sneijder carried the ball forward, Palacio shook off his marker with a clever run and collected the Dutchman's pass on the right of the box before dinking his finish past the keeper from an angle.
Guarin immediately went looking for a third but Coman was alert to it. Coutinho, who had replaced Milito, then exchanged passes with Sneijder before shooting, his weak effort failing to test Coman.
There was danger down the other end with 6 minutes left on the clock, as Castellazzi was forced to tip Sburlea's header over.
After three minutes of added time, Inter left the pitch with a 2-0 away win. A good haul to take home from a tough ground, but no less than they deserved. The result puts Stramaccioni's side in a strong position for next Thursday's second leg and sends them into their Serie A opener against Pescara on a high.
FC Vaslui 0-2 Inter (HT: 0-1)
Scorers: Cambiasso 23, Palacio 73.
FC Vaslui: 1 Coman; 20 Milanov, 5 Celeban (Caue 75), 33 Charalambou, 23 Salagean; 8 Antal, 3 Varela, 18 Sanmartean, 78 N'Doye; 10 Stanciu (Varga 46); 29 Niculae (Sburlea 61).
Unused subs: 89 Catalin, 17 Gheorghiu, 30 Costin, 67 Cordos.
Coach: Marius Sumudica.
Inter: 12 Castellazzi; 13 Maicon, 6 Silvestre, 23 Ranocchia, 4 Zanetti; 19 Cambiasso, 14 Guarin, 16 Mudingayi (Nagatomo 21); 10 Sneijder (Juan 82 Jesus), 8 Palacio; 22 Milito (Coutinho 72).
Unused subs: 27 Belec, 25 Samuel, 42 Jonathan, 88 Livaja.
Coach: Andrea Stramaccioni.
Referee: Sebastiaan Nijhuis (Ned).
Booked: Maicon 72, Coutinho 76, Varga 90+1.
Added time: 1+3 minutes.