Diego Milito atoned for one of the
most extraordinary misses of the season by scoring the decisive
goal in a 2-1 Champions League win for Inter Milan over French
champions Lille on Wednesday.
Inter's third successive win in the group kept them top with
nine points from four games and within touching distance of the
last 16 as they put their dismal domestic form behind them.
Milito's fellow Argentine Walter Samuel opened the scoring
for the ageing Serie A strugglers, fielding a team with a
Champions League record average age of nearly 32, but Tulio de
Melo made the hosts suffer by pulling one back in the 83rd
Milito, struggling to rediscover the form of two seasons ago
when he was pivotal in Inter's treble campaign under Jose
Mourinho, had the half-full San Siro groaning in disbelief
immediately after the restart of the game.
Wesley Sneijder took a free-kick on the left and a
poorly-executed Lille offside trap left Dejan Stankovic and
Milito alone in front of goal.
Stankovic laid the ball into Milito's path and he somehow
volleyed over the open goal from six metres.
The Argentine was the villain again shortly afterwards when
he broke clear but shot weakly at Mickael Landreau with
Stankovic and Mauro Zarate both free and shouting for the ball.
All was forgiven, however, in the 65th minute when he
flicked the ball into the net for his first Champions League
goal of the season after captain Javier Zanetti, 38, burst into
the Lille area.
"I think Milito was the symbol of the match," coach Claudio
Ranieri told reporters.
"He missed a couple of chances but he kept looking for the
ball and in the end he scored.
"I think the help and encouragement from the supporters for
Milito and for the team showed that they like this team."
The 2010 Champions League winners are 17th in Serie A,
having won only twice in nine outings.
They have also been beaten in their last three home
Champions League outings but were quick out of the blocks
against Lille when Cristian Chivu sent Milito away and he lobbed
against the bar.
Zarate, one of only three under-30s in the Inter line-up,
nearly put the hosts ahead in the 18th minute when his shot
squeezed under Landreau and slipped wide.
From the resulting corner, Samuel rose unmarked to head
Inter in front.
Lille, with 20-year-old Belgian Eden Hazard pulling the
strings in midfield, had plenty of possession but rarely
threatened stand-in goalkeeper Luca Castellazzi.
The visitors, who stayed bottom of the group with two
points, kept plugging away after Milito's goal and Hazard nearly
pulled one back when he had a curling free-kick saved by
Inter were never entirely convincing and gave a goal away in
the 83rd minute when a dreadful mistake by Brazil defender Lucio
let in his less well-known compatriot Tulio de Melo to dink the
ball delicately over Castellazzi.
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