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Internazionale FC 2-0 Sporting Club de Portugal (Inter win 2-0 on aggregate)
Luigi Di Biagio and Alvaro Recoba scored in the first half as Internazionale FC beat Sporting Clube de Portugal tonight to advance to the UEFA Champions League first group stage.
Plenty of flair
The Italian side fully deserved to win the tie after drawing in Lisbon a fortnight ago and then seeing off the Portuguese champions at the San Siro stadium. Despite the uncertainty over the future of striker Ronaldo, Inter showed plenty of flair up front and could have won by a bigger margin against a team that lost their first match in 33 games.
Sporting started the better and Pedro Barbosa came close to giving the visitors the lead in the sixth minute but his shot whizzed past Francesco Toldo's right-hand post. Recoba meanwhile had Inter's first chance three minutes later when clean through, but Tiago made a great save.
Toldo then watched one shot from Quaresma go wide before Recoba went close with a swerving free-kick. Recoba started the game up front together with Christian Vieri, both strikers recovering from minor injuries, and formed a lively partnership. Inter proved their ability to cope without Ronaldo when they took the lead in the 31st minute.
Uruguay forward Recoba swung in a high corner from the left and Di Biagio rose above a static Sporting defence to head in beyond Tiago. The goal galvanised the home side and they upped the pressure as the half wore on and they were rewarded in the 44th minute as Domenico Morfeo raced down the left and crossed for Recoba to head in.
The tempo dropped in the scond half, as Inter sat back and defended their lead. Sporting coach Lazlo Bölöni threw on Vitali Kutuzov, a former Milan AC player, to add pressure on Inter's backline but home coach Héctor Cúper responded by introducing new signing Fabio Cannavaro on the hour mark. The former S.S. Lazio defender made his first appearance since Inter paid €23m for his services at the start of the month.
UEFA Cup consolation
In the end Recoba and Vieri could have added a third but Cúper will be pleased that his team overcame what looked one of the toughest ties of the round. Sporting, again without Mario Jardel, will have to be content with a place in the UEFA Cup.
'Rather not speak about Ronaldo'
Cúper was delighted with his side's performance, but avoided the subject of the absent Ronaldo. "On a day like this, I'd rather not speak about Ronaldo, only about the game," he said. "We had a spell in the first half and in the final 20 minutes when we were brilliant. Sporting played well but they were maybe lacking up front.”
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