FC Internazionale Milano made their European pedigree and experience count to clinch a much-needed victory at LOSC Lille Métropole, Giampaolo Pazzini leaving the French champions reeling with the only goal.
Claudio Ranieri's side travelled to France smarting from a Serie A setback at Calcio Catania, but they climbed to the top of Group B with a calm and controlled performance. As much as Lille tried to make the running in search of a first win, they found no way through a tight Inter rearguard and looked more vulnerable when Pazzini finished a piercing move with panache after 21 minutes.
Bottom of the section before the match kicked off, PFC CSKA Moskva having earlier beaten Trabzonspor AŞ, Lille began by plugging away down the right, looking for space to feed Moussa Sow in the centre. While their crossing proved wayward, that strategy had the secondary merit of pinning Inter back, but the visitors gradually started to wriggle free and stunned the home crowd when Pazzini volleyed in from Mauro Zárate's cross, the Argentinian forward having been sent down the left by Wesley Sneijder.
Trailing for the first time in this year's competition, Lille immediately raised their tempo, Mathieu Debuchy stinging Júlio César's palms and Joe Cole firing over. Too wasteful in possession, and with Sow given close attention, it was not a rhythm they could sustain for long, however, and Zárate threatened to double the deficit when he sped past Debuchy and forced Marko Baša to deflect over.
If Inter had looked comfortable in the first half, they were quickly put under pressure after the restart, César needing to tip over a deflected Sow effort and both Florent Balmont and Eden Hazard making nuisances of themselves. Again their opponents were able to tighten up at the back, though, with Lúcio and Cristian Chivu particularly solid, and substitute Dimitri Payet was denied by the sprawling César when he found a little space to curl an attempt towards the far corner.
Another replacement, Dejan Stanković, then tested Vincent Enyeama at the other end as Inter still threatened on the break, before Franck Béria tried his luck from distance for Lille. César dealt with the attempt easily, just as he plucked a Debuchy header from the air following a free-kick, and his capable handling summed up a diligent evening for the visitors. Lille will need to find a more penetrative edge when the rivals reconvene in Italy on 2 November.
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