Internazionale FC were indebted to their returning hero Christian Vieri as the Italian international striker scored with a late glancing header to earn a hard-fought victory over FC Dynamo Kyiv at the San Siro in this UEFA Champions League Group B game.
Vieri, who had been suffering with an ankle injury, did not make the starting line-up but was handed a place on the substitutes' bench. With an hour played, the San Siro gave a tremendous roar as coach Héctor Cúper decided to bring on Vieri for young forward Obafemi Martins, and his gamble worked, as the burly striker scored in the dying stages.
Dynamo did not seem intimidated and started the game brightly, putting pressure on their hosts down the flanks. However, it was Inter who had the first effort on goal. With the Dynamo defence back-pedalling, Inter captain Javier Zanetti came surging forward and fired a shot against the side-netting from outside the box.
The visitors responded in kind eight minutes later. Fabio Cannavaro looked to have Diogo Rincón's header under control, but Maksim Shatskikh hustled the ball off him and scampered towards goal, shooting wide from a tight angle. The Uzbekistan international looked threatening all night and missed a similar chance later in the half.
Then, on 23 minutes, Inter took the lead. Dynamo were struggling to cope with the pace of Andy van der Meyde, Emre Belözoglu and Kily González on the edge of the box, and conceded a rash of free-kicks from dangerous positions. It was from one of these set-pieces that Kily González curled in a left-footed cross which Cannavaro headed on target. Olexandr Shovkovskiy saved excellently, but the rebound fell to Daniele Adani who scored with ease.
Nine minutes later, the visitors were level. Tiberiu Ghioane, Dynamo's Romanian midfield player, made good progress down the left but looked to have hit his low cross too close to Francesco Toldo. However, the Italian international spilled the ball and Serhiy Federov was the first to react, firing the loose ball powerfully into the goal.
With the game all square, both sides upped the tempo and Dynamo had three players booked by half-time. Inter could not take advantage of their set-pieces, however, with a series of poor deliveries. Van der Meyde did deliver an excellent cross just before the break, but Cannavaro could not make good contact as he slid in at the far post.
While the pace of the game did not slow in the second half, there were fewer chances for both sides. Julio Cruz twice shot tamely at Shovkovskiy when in good positions, while the Dynamo substitute Aleksandr Khatskevich almost snatched the lead with a header from close range, only to see his effort sail over the goal.
Jerko Leko, Dynamo’s Croatian midfield player, had looked dangerous all evening, with a series of powerful shots throughout, and just after Vieri arrived he went close with a fierce strike that went wide of the near post.
With just six minutes left, and Inter dominating the game, Dynamo nearly scored. With the hosts throwing numbers forward, a canny counterattack resulted in Shatskikh finding himself unmarked on the edge of the box, but the 25-year-old forward failed to control the ball and the chance was gone.
Then came the final twist. Inter had wasted free-kick after free-kick all game, but with 90 minutes played, they found the crucial delivery. Kily González whipped the ball in from the right with his left boot, where Vieri rose highest to glance the ball over Shovkovskiy and into the goal.