An Adriano hat-trick helped FC Internazionale Milano ease into the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League as a clinical display earned an impressive victory against FC Artmedia.
The home side, whose starting eleven did not feature one Italian player, kicked off knowing victory would secure them first place in Group H, and took the lead midway through the first half through Luís Figo. Unbeaten in two previous away games in the section, Artmedia tried to rally but Adriano then took centre stage, doubling Inter's advantage shortly before half-time and scoring twice more in the second period to crown a memorable evening in Milan.
Inter's return of four goals from four matches had prompted Roberto Mancini to recall Alvaro Recoba in attack alongside Adriano. The coach also rested Marco Materazzi in defence, thus fielding a truly international lineup as no Italians were on the pitch. Artmedia were without talismanic midfielder Lukáš Hartig, their leading scorer in domestic competition, due to a hand injury sustained in training on Tuesday, although goalkeeper Juraj Čobej shrugged off a shoulder complaint.
Figo on form
Now accustomed to the atmosphere at an empty ground - Inter were completing a four-match stadium ban imposed as punishment for the behaviour of their supporters at last season's quarter-final against AC Milan - the hosts were quickly into their stride. The first chance fell to Figo, who had registered his first Nerazzurri goal at the weekend, but he blasted over after cleverly sending his marker the wrong way.
Amid this open start to proceedings, Artmedia almost snatched an unexpected lead. Balázs Borbély rose highest to meet a corner but could only steer his effort wide. Inter responded swiftly, Juan Sebastián Verón's pass evading Ondrej Debnár and falling for Adriano, but the Artmedia defender recovered swiftly to block the shot. The deadlock was broken in the 28th minute, however, and again Verón was the instigator, splitting the defence with a pinpoint pass that was expertly controlled by Figo, who switched the ball from left foot to right before coolly slotting past Čobej.
Adriano ends drought
Artmedia's unbeaten away record was now under threat and the visitors quickly regrouped, Ján Kozák's close-range effort forcing Júlio César to block with his hands. That save proved decisive as Inter doubled up four minutes before half-time, Figo's pass from deep setting Adriano galloping clear and the Brazilian, without a UEFA Champions League goal since his strike against FC Shakhtar Donetsk in the third qualifying round on 10 August, duly ended that drought by placing a left-footed shot beyond the despairing Čobej.
Mancini introduced Nicolás Burdisso in place of Figo at half-time, but despite bringing on another defender, Inter did not sit back and Recoba was increasingly influential in and around the Artmedia area. The Uruguay forward, on his 50th appearance in UEFA club competition, was the orchestrator of the third goal a minute before the hour, playing a clever one-two with Adriano to allow the Brazilian to tap in his second.
Artmedia were unable to cope with the striker's powerful presence, and paid the price again with 16 minutes remaining as Adriano again found himself in too much space to collect Dejan Stanković's pass 20 metres out. He took a touch, looked up and lofted the ball perfectly over the stranded Čobej to take Inter into the last 16 in considerable style.