By David Minton at Constant Vanden Stock
FC Internazionale Milano moved to the top of UEFA Champions League Group G after a comfortable win at RSC Anderlecht. Obafemi Martins got the Italian side off to a perfect start with an early goal before quick-fire second-half strikes from Adriano and Dejan Stankovic killed off the game.
Inter coach Roberto Mancini made five changes to the side that drew with Parma FC on Sunday. The most significant was Nigerian forward Martins, the 'super-sub' of Serie A, making a rare start in place of the injured Christian Vieri.
Within nine minutes of the kick-off, Martins was on the score-sheet. Adriano broke down the left and the Brazilian's low cross was turned in from close range by the 19-year-old, his third goal in four days after scoring twice against Parma AC.
The pace and physicality of Inter's strike-force was to prove a constant danger, although it was the home side that had forced the game's first save with Francesco Toldo tipping over Besnik Hasi's vicious free-kick. On 20 minutes, Adriano's goalbound effort was deflected behind, and from the resulting corner Nicolás Burdisso missed a clear chance to double the visitors' lead.
Having cut inside Vincent Kompany with a tremendous piece of skill soon after, Adriano could not generate enough power to beat Tristan Peersman in the Anderlecht goal. For the remainder of the first half, Anderlecht coach Hugo Broos got the reaction he desired after keeping faith with the eleven that started last Friday's league defeat at R. Charleroi SC.
Christian Wilhelmsson and Aruna Dindane came into the game, and Aruna tested Toldo's reactions at his near post, as the home support urged the Belgian champions forward. But Aruna was left frustrated when the quality of his free header failed to match Mbo Mpenza's cross from the right. Shortly afterwards, Wilhelmsson's thunderous volley was cleared off the line as Anderlecht grew in confidence.
But Anderlecht's hopes of salvaging something from a game Broos said they had to win to stand a chance of progression to the next round, were ended in a frantic three-minute spell at the start of the second half. Inter began the period purposefully and got their reward when Adriano rose above everyone to head in a 51st-minute corner.
The Brazilian's strike marked the first chants of 'Olé!' from the visitors' end, and no sooner had they died down than Stankovic made it 3-0 with a perfectly placed effort from 25 metres. Peersman was quickly off his line to prevent the scoreline looking even worse for the home side as Adriano bore down on goal from Juan Sebastián Verón's clever through-ball. The closest Anderlecht came to scoring was Aruna's deflected effort, with the spinning ball deceiving Toldo but striking the post.
Inter push forward
Although the points were safe, Inter chased more goals. Julio Cruz, on for Adriano, went narrowly wide while Edgar Davids, another substitute, stung Peersman's gloves as the Nerazzurri continued to dictate the tempo. But Toldo still had to be at his best to make a point-blank stop from Anderlecht substitute Oleg Iachtchouk's header.
Late Baseggio effort
Anderlecht closed out the game still looking for a consolation and Walter Baseggio did the trick with a left-footed shot from the edge of the area in injury-time. Inter now face a double-header with Valencia CF, starting in Spain on 20 October, while Anderlecht are rooted at the bottom of the table without a point, and meet Werder Bremen next.