José Mourinho marked his return to the UEFA Champions with a victory as goals in each half from Mancini and Adriano earned FC Internazionale Milano the points at Panathinaikos FC in Group B.
Almost a year to the day since Mourinho, who led FC Porto to the 2004 title, parted company with Chelsea FC, the tireless Zlatan Ibrahimović teed up both Mancini on 27 minutes, then substitute Adriano five minutes from time, to put a smile on the face of the Portuguese coach whose side kicked off their UEFA Champions League campaign in commanding fashion. The closest Panathinaikos came was when Bryce Moon hit the crossbar shortly before half-time, though the resolve they showed after falling behind will at least be a comfort to coach Henk Ten Cate.
Ten Cate was Frank Rijkaard's assistant when FC Barcelona were crowned champions in 2006 and was No2 to Avram Grant last season as Chelsea reached the final. Now in his first UEFA Champions League match as a head coach, he surprised home supporters with a much-changed lineup, starting Dimitris Salpingidis as the lone attacker in a safety-first 4-5-1 formation. After a sluggish opening Inter created the first real chance on 13 minutes when Maicon slipped Ibrahimović through on goal, only for the Sweden striker to roll his effort harmlessly wide. The warning, though, had been sounded.
On 17 minutes Greens goalkeeper Mario Galinović tipped Ricardo Quaresma's shot around the post, then punched away Ibrahimović's drive. Inter were beginning to find their way through with alarming regularity and a goal was not long in coming. Ibrahimović out-muscled Simão to the ball, got the better of both Giannis Goumas and Mikael Nilsson before sliding a pass into the path of Mancini who fired Inter deservedly in front on 27 minutes.
Panathinaikos, Greece's sole representative in the competition, responded immediately with Júlio César forced to tip Moon's strike over the bar. It was a rare call to action for the Inter goalkeeper, but it signalled the start of a mini-duel between the pair. Moon's low attempt was well held by the Brazilian on 38 minutes before another shot from the South African deflected off Marco Materazzi and on to the crossbar three minutes before the break. Moon's exploits offered hope to Ten Cate who had had to replace the injured Giorgos Karagounis with Andreas Ivanschitz.
Ivanschitz proved the catalyst for some enterprising play from the Athens club in the second period, as Panathinaikos took the game to Inter. Júlio César blocked one strike from the Austrian international on 50 minutes and was also relieved to see Cleyton's shot curl just wide. He then had to be alert to deny Ivanschitz's dipping free-kick on 68 minutes. As the match wore on, though, Inter tightened the screw, and added a second when Ibrahimović slipped Adriano through with five minutes to play. Panathinaikos next face Anorthosis Famagusta FC, who defeated their Greek rivals Olympiacos CFP in qualifying, while Inter welcome Werder Bremen to San Siro.
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