|I||H. Kiryat Shmona||21:05||Sparta Praha|
Rodrigo Palacio took his tally against FK Partizan to three goals in two games as FC Internazionale Milano qualified for the UEFA Europa League round of 32 with two games to spare.
Responsible for the late winner when the sides met a fortnight ago, half-time substitute Palacio proved the scourge of Partizan again with efforts on 51 and 75 minutes. Fredy Guarín added a third, and while Nemanja Tomić broke the hosts' scoring duck in Group H in added time, the game was long since up for the Serbian champions.
With FC Rubin Kazan having beaten Neftçi PFK earlier in the evening, the Nerazzurri knew a point would be sufficient to qualify. Though they would rubber-stamp their place with apparent ease, the outlook for Inter might have been radically different were it not for Samir Handanovič.
While Nikola Petrović was underemployed before the break – the closest Inter came was a shot from Guarín which whistled wide – Handanovič rose to the occasion with two reflex saves, first getting down low to scoop Ivan Ivanov's header around a post. From Tomić's ensuing corner, the Slovenia No1 frustrated the same player with another acrobatic stop.
Handanovič came to the visitors' rescue once more four minutes into the second half, though this time he knew little about it, keeping the ball out after team-mate Juan had miscued while trying to clear Aleksandar Miljković's low cross.
However, like he did at San Siro, Palacio broke Partizan hearts. The Argentinian international had only been on the field five minutes when he stooped to chest in Guarín's driven cross from the byline. A quarter of an hour from time the same players combined again, Palacio running through and rifling across Petrović.
In the meantime, Handanovič stood tall to block Stefan Šćepović's near-post attempt and clawed away Milan Smiljanić's drive. Late on, Guarín and Tomić exchanged goals. While Partizan and Neftçi are now out of the running, Inter, after their tenth successive win, and Rubin go marching on.
©UEFA.com 1998-2011. All rights reserved.