MILAN - Rodrigo Palacio hit a brace at the Meazza to settle the first leg of Inter's 2012/13 UEFA Europa League round-of-32 tie with Cluj.
There were just seven minutes on the clock when Diego Milito went to the ground in pain. He left the pitch on a stretcher and was replaced by Palacio a few minutes later.
A good chance went begging in the 17th minute as Cassano picked out Cambiasso on the far side of the box and Cuchu overhit his cross for Palacio. The Argentine striker did get a bite of the cherry just three minutes later, however, and he gobbled it up. Guarin muscled an opponent off the ball in his own half and galloped upfield before laying off for Palacio, whose finish left Felgueiras with no chance.
On 37 minutes Inter had two opportunities to double their lead: first Cassano showed sublime skill to release Palacio in the box, only for Felgueriras to deny him; then Piccolo stopped another Palacio strike with what appeared to be handball – no penalty was given though.
Inter rounded out the scoreline with four minutes of normal time remaining. Mateo Kovacic, who impressed on his full debut at the Meazza, chested the ball down before sending Palacio away with an exquisite pass; El Trenza bore down on goal and lobbed the ball over the keeper from a wide angle.
The stage is set for the return leg at the Stadionul Dr. Constantin Radulescu next Thursday: Cluj v Inter kicks off at 19:00 local time.
Inter 2-0 Cluj (HT: 1-0)
Scorers: Palacio 20, 86.
Inter: 1 Handanovic; 55 Nagatomo, 6 Silvestre, 23 Ranocchia, 31 Pereira; 19 Cambiasso, 29 Kovacic (29 Jonathan, 88), 21 Gargano; 14 Guarin; 22 Milito (8 Palacio, 10), 99 Cassano (11 Alvarez, 73).
Subs not used: 27 Belec, 4 Zanetti, 24 Benassi, 40 Juan Jesus.
Coach: Andrea Stramaccioni.
Cluj: 1 Felgueiras; 3 Ivo Pinto; 13 Piccolo, 20 Cadu, 45 Camora; 6 Muresan, 23 Godemeche (12 Maftei, 84), 24 Rada, 8 Sepsi; 14 Maah (22 Hora, 78), 30 Rui Pedro (19 Bjelanovic, 84).
Subs not used: 44 Stancioiu, 10 Valente, 26 Celestino, 62 Paun-Alexandru.
Coach: Paulo Sergio.
Referee: Michael Koukoulakis (GRE).
Booked: Pereira 31, Maah 67, Silvestre 70, Muresan 82.
Added time: 3 + 2 minutes.