Cruz settles Inter's nerves
By Chris Stanton
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
Internazionale eked out a 1-0 win against Artmedia Bratislava.
Ten-man Internazionale eked out a 1-0 win in Bratislava, courtesy of Julio Cruz's 15th minute strike, but were made to work hard for the victory by Artmedia.
Juan Sebastian Veron was controversially dismissed shortly before the hour mark after taking a free kick without the referee's permission, however Roberto Mancini's side held on for the win.
In a venue borrowed from their more illustrious neighbours, Slovan Bratislava, the Slovakians adopted a cautious approach against the Serie A giants in this UEFA Champions League Group H match.
The early stages were notable only for the work-rate and endeavour of the Artmedia side who pressed Inter's star-studded midfield, in the hope of disrupting the Italians' passing game.
One of those stars, the Argentine Veron, appeared Inter's biggest threat and he found Pierre Wome whose left-foot effort fizzed wide from 20 yards.
Wome's defensive expertise were a little less impressive, however, and Artmedia sensing they could capatilise on a hitherto disjointed Inter performance began to probe down Inter's left, yet a driven cross from Juraj Halenar which narrowly alluded the onrushing Blazej Vascak was all Vladimir Weiss's side could muster.
As if the Slovakians had been lulled into a false sense of security, the Inter breakthrough came two minutes later and it was harsh on the minnows.
A ball down the inside left channel from Dejan Stankovic found Adriano who in turn crossed for the unmarked Cruz. The Argentine slipped but the finish across goalkeeper Juraj Cobej found the bottom right hand corner of the net.
Cruz should have doubled his side's lead in the closing stages of the first half but shot wastefully at Cobej's legs as the first half ended in a non-descript fashion.
Inter started the second half much more purposefully and Adriano should have all but secured the win in the 55th minute but he inexplicably ballooned the ball over the bar from eight yards after good approach work from Stankovic.
A minute later and Inter were reduced to ten men following Veron's bizarre dismissal. Already booked in the first half for a foul on Lukas Hartig, referee Eric Poulat harshly awarded Veron a second booking after taking a free kick before the official was ready.
Veron's understandable protestations fell on deaf ears and his team's dismay was nearly compounded when, from a corner, Hartig headed narrowly wide.
Adriano's influence was growing as the game went on and his superbly flighted free kick struck the post, however the chance that Artmedia had waited all night for was to fall to Halenar but the striker's 85th minute shot was gathered by Soares Julio Cesar at the second attempt.
Artmedia pressed for an unlikely equaliser however it was not to be and Inter escaped with three hard earned points to open their Champions League campaign.
Click here for Artmedia v Inter player ratings.
|FC Artmedia||Team Statistics||Internazionale|
|0||1st Half Goals||1|
|2||Shots on Target||2|
|4||Shots off Target||12|