Internazionale FC 1-0 AFC Ajax
A precise volley from Hernán Crespo ensured Internazionale FC secured all three points from their UEFA Champions League Group D meeting with a stubborn AFC Ajax side at the San Siro in Milan.
A cautious, balanced game devoid of many scoring chances was lit up by Crespo's deft touch in front of goal 15 minutes from time. A deep cross from the right by substitute Matias Almeyda was met first time by the Argentinian striker's outstretched right leg, leaving marker Petri Pasanen and his Ajax colleagues stunned.
Without imperious defender Fabio Cannavaro, who was suspended following last week's red card against Rosenborg BK, Inter nevertheless looked solid at the back througout, despite being put under pressure by a string of second-half corners from their Dutch guests.
Perhaps the best chance of a tight first half fell to Ajax's Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the 17th minute, when he raced on to a long pass down the inside-left channel but saw his left-foot effort pushed around the post by Francesco Toldo in the Inter goal. A minute later Crespo should have had an easier chance laid on for him after playing a wall pass with Christian Vieri, but the Italian's return ball sent his strike-partner too wide to beat Maarten Stekelenburg.
That near-post save was practically the last action for the Ajax keeper, who hobbled off midway through the first half clutching his strapped left thigh to be replaced by Henk Timmer. But the substitute goalkeeper was not troubled before half-time as a toothless Inter failed going forward, despite some crunching challenges at the back.
At the other end, Maxwell's one-two with Jari Litmanen, who was perhaps still recovering from the thigh strain he picked up at the weekend, was followed by a poor shot wide of target, but Ajax raised their game after half-time.
Ajax on top
The Amsterdam side created three chances in a torrid five-minute spell for the hosts. First Tomáš Galásek fired straight at Toldo from 25 metres, then Andy van der Meyde spotted Toldo off his line and almost broke the deadlock with an audacious 30-metre chip, but watched his effort drop over the Inter crossbar. A minute later the impressive Tunisian Hatem Trabelsi arrowed a ferocious angled drive that was too fierce for Toldo to hold - and it seemed as though if either side were to sneak a winner it would be the visitors.
But Crespo had other ideas and after silencing the noisy travelling supporters with that crisp 75th-minute strike, he could have doubled Inter's lead when he volleyed wide from ten metres out. Vieri, watched closely by the outstanding Cristian Chivu all night, went close late on but by that stage Ajax's heads had dropped and Héctor Cúper's side were destined to climb to the top of the section.
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