PRAGUE – Inter were beaten 3-1 away at Sparta Prague on Thursday night, leaving Frank de Boer’s side without a point after two rounds of Europa League matches.
Vaclav Kadlec scored twice in the first half to leave Inter with it all to do, and although Rodrigo Palacio pulled one back after the break Mario Holek scored on 77 minutes to sink the Nerazzurri.
Sparta pressed hard right from the kick-off, Danilo D’Ambrosio having to show good reactions to clear a whipped cross from the right in the opening minutes. Yet the home side were determined to land an early blow and they duly found it after just seven minutes: Felipe Melo’s tackle rolled inadvertently into the path of Kadlec, who calmly slotted past Handanovic and into the back of the net.
Inter looked to respond immediately, but they were forced back by Sparta, whose second goal came on 26 minutes. This time it was a quick free kick which caught the Nerazzurri backline napping, allowing Kadlec to gather the ball and fire it home for 2-0.
Try as they might, Inter were unable to create any meaningful chances down the other end, as Sparta took advantage of their pacey wide men to ensure Frank de Boer’s men had one eye on defending at all times.
The second half began in much the same vein, Kadlec coming close to a famous hat-trick only to blaze over the bar from close range.
De Boer threw on Ansaldi, Perisic and captain Mauro Icardi in the hope of salvaging something from the match, and the changes soon bore fruit.
On 71 minutes, Icardi released Eder down the right with a precise, first-time ball. The Italian international got his head up and found Palacio, who took the ball in his stride and calmly stroked it home for 2-1.
The Nerazzurri were right back in the match, but any hopes of a comeback were rocked in the 75th minute as Andrea Ranocchia was shown a second yellow card for a clumsy challenge.
And it was from the resultant free kick that Holek was able to ghost in at the near post to nod home and make it 3-1, leaving Inter with a mountain to climb.
The Nerazzurri battled on, Icardi drawing a save from Koubek with a header before Eder poked just past the post from the captain’s through ball, but there was to be no miracle.
Inter will now look to kick start their Europa League campaign against Southampton at San Siro on Matchday 3.
SPARTA PRAGUE 3-1 INTER (HT: 2-0)
Scorers: Kadlec 7, 26, Palacio 71, Holek 77.
SPARTA PRAGUE: 33 Koubek; 4 Karavaev, 2 Mazuch, 25 Holek, 3 Kadlec (Pulkrab 73); 17 Cermak (Lafata 87), 14 M. Frydek (Julis 65), 16 Sacek, 22 Holzer; 9 Dockal; 77 Kadlec.
Subs not used: 27 Miller, 45 Havelka, 46 Kadlec, 47 Kosti.
Coach: David Holoubek.
INTER: 1 Handanovic; 33 D'Ambrosio (Ansaldi 55), 13 Ranocchia, 24 Murillo, 95 Miangue; 27 Gnoukouri (Icardi 70), 5 Melo; 87 Candreva (Perisic 62), 19 Banega, 23 Eder; 8 Palacio.
Subs not used: 30 Carrizo, 17 Medel, 25 Miranda, 91 Zonta.
Coach: Frank de Boer.
Yellow cards: Ranocchia 46, 75, Frydek 58, Julis 78, Kadlec 77, Pulkrab 90+1.
Red cards: Ranocchia 75.
Added time: 0 + 4 minutes.
Referee: Ribeiro Soares Dias.
Assistants: Barbosa Tavares, Santos Soares.
Fourth official: Dos Santos Tomas Pereira.
Additional assistants: Ferreira C. Moreira Miguel, Lopes Martins.