FC Internazionale Milano took another step towards the UEFA Champions League knockout stage as they completed their third consecutive Group B victory at the expense of LOSC Lille Métropole.
Strikes in either half by Walter Samuel and Diego Milito earned the hosts a two-goal cushion that was halved by substitute Túlio De Melo late on, as Inter saw out a narrow victory. It stretched their lead in the pool to four points with two matches remaining.
The hosts might have been in front in the second minute when Milito expertly controlled Cristian Chivu's searching pass and beat the advancing Mickaël Landreau with a neat lob, but his effort came back off the bar. In truth it was the visitors who made most of the early running, Samuel forced into a brave block on Ireneusz Jeleń after a flowing move down the left.
Moussa Sow then dallied at the far post after fine approach play between Jeleń and Joe Cole, who delivered a perfect cross for the Senegalese international. Nonetheless, it was Inter who took the lead, after Mauro Zárate won a corner with a fine run and shot which squirmed out off Landreau's body. From Wesley Sneijder's ensuing cross Samuel rose above Rio Mavuba to score with a towering header.
Lille tried to respond but Eden Hazard's shot was too ambitious and Sow rushed his 35th-minute effort. At the other end the hosts constructed a sweeping move involving Sneijder and Esteban Cambiasso, but Zárate scuffed his strike. Worse was to follow for Inter as Milito squandered two gilt-edged chances shortly after the restart.
When Les Dogues' defence pushed up for offside, Dejan Stanković's cushioned header left the unmarked Milito five metres out with just Landreau to beat; he fired over. On 53 minutes, the Argentina forward ran half the length of the pitch only to side-foot into Landreau's arms.
Milito did not pass up his third chance, carved out by a wonderful raid down the right by Javier Zanetti, who weaved past three players before crossing for his compatriot to score from close range. Though David Rozehnal skimmed the bar with a snap-shot and Hazard tested Luca Castellazzi with a free-kick, the hosts were in charge.
They let their guard slip seven minutes from time, however, when Lúcio failed to deal with a deflected pass into the area. De Melo pounced to clip coolly past Castellazzi, but Inter held on.