Destined for the bottom of Group F with four minutes remaining as they trailed FC Dynamo Kyiv 1-0, FC Internazionale Milano were travelling to the summit by full time as goals from Diego Milito and the excellent Wesley Sneijder earned a dramatic win.
If the Ukrainian side ended the night at the foot of the section, for a long time they had been destined for the top after former AC Milan striker Andriy Shevchenko's goal midway through the first half. The Nerazzurri squandered a host of chances but just as their campaign was ebbing away, Sneijder slipped Milito through and the Argentinian coolly slotted in. It was an opportune moment to register his first UEFA Champions League goal, and three minutes later he chalked up his first assist of sorts. Stanislav Bogush was unable to gather Sulley Muntari's low effort and though the goalkeeper kept out Milito from the angle, Sneijder pounced to bundle in the loose ball.
The Dutchman had come close to breaking the deadlock two minutes in when his attempt skimmed the bar, yet in freezing Ukraine it was the locals, and the lively Andriy Yarmolenko, who wrested control and on 21 minutes they were ahead. There was some inevitability about the scorer, as Shevchenko collected Artem Milevskiy's flick on his chest on the edge of the area and looped a volley off Esteban Cambiasso and over Júlio César. It was his fourth goal against the Nerazzurri in the UEFA Champions League, his 15th overall. Coach José Mourinho cut a worried figure on the touchline as Dynamo threatened to enhance their lead on the counterattack.
Still, on 35 minutes, Milito had a golden chance to haul his team level. Having finally escaped the attentions of Yevgen Khacheridi, he played a slick one-two with Dejan Stanković but shot straight at Bogush. Valeri Gazzaev's men were soon back on the attack and after Milevskiy had been brought down by Lucio on the stroke of half-time, Shevchenko's free-kick was deflected wide. Mourinho had seen enough, making a double change at the break: Mario Balotelli and Thiago Motta coming on for Cristian Chivu and Cambiasso.
Set-pieces still looked Inter's best hope as Walter Samuel headed just wide from Sneijder's delivery, and the Serie A titleholders began to boss possession. Yet if Inter needed any reminder of their opponents' quality, Miloš Ninković supplied it on the hour when his shot rippled the side-netting. Back the away side came and they should have equalised four minutes later when Samuel Eto'o steered his header wide of a gaping net after Bogush charged out for and missed Sneijder's corner.
The keeper redeemed himself, however, tipping Eto'o's next header on to the post after another Sneijder set-piece and then doing enough to force Balotelli to clip wide after being released by Eto'o's exquisite through ball. The Cameroonian striker again nodded wide but just as previously winless Inter appeared set to pay for their missed opportunities, Milito set up a thrilling finale that left Dynamo – who will be without Leandro Almeida on Matchday 5 through suspension – crestfallen.