MILAN - Inter recorded a crucial 3-1 win at home to Sheriff Tiraspol in the Champions League to get their European campaign back on track in Group D. Edin Dzeko sent the hosts 1-0 up at the interval with a powerful volley that flew into the top corner, only for the visitors to equalise with a stunning free kick with 52 minutes on the clock. The Nerazzurri wasted little time in getting back into the lead when Dzeko set up Arturo Vidal for a left-footed strike from the left-hand side of the box just six minutes later. Simone Inzaghi’s troops all but secured the three points when Stefan de Vrij poked the ball home in the 67th minute with what proved to be the last of the goals. Inter now sit on four points behind Sheriff and Real Madrid who are both on six.
It was a case of winning at all costs at San Siro on Tuesday evening, given the stuttering start to the European campaign and a ferocious desire to make amends for the disappointing evening in Rome against Lazio on Saturday. During their maiden Champions League campaign, Sheriff headed to Milan full of confidence off the back of a stunning victory in Madrid last time out. Yuriy Vernydub’s side were able to express themselves without the pressure of needing to get a result no matter what, a far cry from the situation for Inzaghi’s charges. The Nerazzurri lined up in a 3-5-2 formation with Federico Dimarco in the rearguard, Denzel Dumfries on the right wing and Vidal on the left-hand side of midfield. It was essential that Inter didn’t let the hunt for a goal turn into frustration under the Champions League lights.
Sheriff certainly had a key role to play in the game, as they lined up in a 4-2-3-1 system with a solid defensive block and an ability to counter at any moment, with the four attacking players and pacey full-back Cristiano. The Moldovan side had the better of the early stages, but Inter did grow into the contest, with Dumfries making several breaks towards goal, but with little to show for them. Dzeko’s attacking presence kept Danilo Arboleda and Gustavo Dulanto occupied at regular intervals.
In the 34th minute, Dumitru Celeadnic, who’d already done brilliantly to deny Dumfries and Dzeko, palmed a powerful free kick by Dimarco behind for a corner, which the Bosnian ended up scoring from as the number 9 struck a rasping volley into the top corner. The goal was long-awaited and the relief was palpable in the San Siro stands, particularly given that the team’s dominance had nothing to show for it (14 shots on goal in the first half, just as against Real Madrid), but clear-cut chances had been few and far between.
Sheriff certainly were not out of the running just yet, with the yellow shirts getting forward in waves. They also had quality down the flanks through Bruno and co. In the 52nd minute, Sebastien Thill scored the sort of goal that the visitors’ fans won’t forget in a hurry as he followed up his stunning winner at the Bernabeu with a bending free kick from all of 30 yards out to level the scores. It certainly didn’t flatter the Moldovan side, who were rewarded for their bravery, albeit temporarily.
Knowing that Real Madrid were comfortably ahead in Kyiv, the Nerazzurri got their heads down and pushed forward in a bid to restore their lead swiftly. Dumfries didn’t quite catch a bouncing ball correctly when he shot over and Perisic struck the woodwork before Vidal latched on to Dzeko’s through ball to slot home in the 58th minute and send the San Siro crowd into raptures.
Inter wanted to make sure the job was done and dusted with a third goal that crushed Sheriff’s hopes in the 67th minute. Marcelo Brozovic swung in a corner that Dumfries headed back where it came to his compatriot De Vrij, who conjured up a volley on the turn with the aplomb of an experienced centre-forward.
You could feel the release of tension around the ground as the team closed out the game without taking any risks. More gloss could’ve been added to the scoreline late on when Lautaro struck the bar and Stefano Sensi almost marked his return from injury with a goal when his drive from the edge of the box went just wide, but the Nerazzurri were worthy winners and now turn their attention to a massive clash with Juve on Sunday evening.
INTER 3-1 SHERIFF (HT: 1-0)
Scorers: Dzeko 34, Thill 52, Vidal 58, De Vrij 67.
INTER (3-5-2): 1 Handanovic; 37 Skriniar, 6 De Vrij, 32 Dimarco (95 Bastoni, 54); 2 Dumfries, 23 Barella, 77 Brozovic (12 Sensi, 85), 22 Vidal (5 Gagliardini, 75), 14 Perisic (11 Kolarov, 85); 9 Dzeko (7 Sanchez, 75), 10 Lautaro.
Subs not used: 21 Cordaz, 97 Radu, 8 Vecino, 13 Ranocchia, 19 Correa, 33 D'Ambrosio, 36 Darmian, 95 Bastoni.
Coach: Simone Inzaghi.
SHERIFF (4-2-3-1): 1 Celeadnic; 13 Costanza, 2 Arboleda, 55 Dulanto, 15 Cristiano; 21 Addo (20 Nikolov, 75), 31 Thill; 77 Bruno Souza, 22 Kolovos (98 Cojocaru, 84), 10 Castañeda (6 Radeljic, 46); 9 Traore (19 Cojocar, 90).
Subs not used: 33 Pascenco, 16 Julien, 18 Kyabou, 99 Yansane.
Coach: Jurij Vernydub.
Booked: Dimarco, Cojocaru.
Added time: 0+3 minutes.
Referee: Makkelie (NED).
Assistants: Steegstra, De Vries (NED).
Fourth official: Kooij (NED).
VAR: Kamphuis (NED)
Assistant VAR: Van Boekel (NED).