Two goals in the first nine minutes from Julio Cruz helped FC Internazionale Milano break their 2006/07 UEFA Champions League duck as the Serie A leaders earned a 2-1 win against FC Spartak Moskva.
In a display rich with attacking verve, and influenced notably by the creative instincts of the recalled Alvaro Recoba in the first half, Roberto Mancini's side earned a precious first victory of the campaign which lifts them to third place in Group B on three points and breathes new life into their European challenge.
Inter took the lead on 60 seconds with Patrick Vieira, returning from suspension, instrumental in the goal. After earning a free-kick following a clumsy foul by Mozart in his own half, Vieira cushioned Recoba's free-kick into the path of Cruz and the Argentinian forward, making his first start of the season, fired an unstoppable left-footed shot in off the crossbar from ten metres.
In the build-up to the match, much had been made of Inter's failure to score in the competition but the introduction of Recoba for his first club appearance of 2006/07 underlined that the home team, in desperate need of points, were going to take the attacking initiative. The Uruguayan's inclusion paid off in the ninth minute when he picked out his strike partner from the left edge of the area and Cruz headed in at the far post for his second goal.
In an open game the visitors were gifted the opportunity to reduce the arrears when a defensive mix-up enabled Denis Boyarintsev to chase into the box. With only Júlio César to beat, however, the midfielder side-footed over the bar. Inter's insistence on attacking football provided Spartak with further counterattacking chances. Vladimir Bystrov came close on 35 minutes with a clever diagonal back-flick from Roman Pavlyuchenko's cross, while Mozart's curler three minutes later brought a spectacular save from his compatriot Júlio César.
The hosts had the chance to put the tie beyond doubt seven minutes after the restart when Javier Zanetti dispossessed Roman Shishkin and raced down the left wing. Dejan Stanković helped the ball on to Luís Figo but the former Portugal captain's shot rattled the bar on its way over. Rather than extend their advantage, the Nerazzurri saw it reduced on 54 minutes as Spartak – now changed from a 4-5-1 to a 4-4-2 formation - registered through Pavlyuchenko. Boyarintsev turned on the edge of the area and found Pavlyuchenko with a low delivery and the unmarked Russia striker made no mistake.
Inter hang on
Spartak failed to capitalise on their lifeline, although both sides could have scored again in the closing stages. Cruz was denied a hat-trick by Wojciech Kowalewski while the excellent Stanković had a goal ruled out for a foul. The same player drove narrowly wide with five minutes remaining, yet Inter were hanging on by the end as Quincy Owusu-Abeyie set up Boyarintsev but Júlio César made the save.