Inter are through to the Europa League Round of 16 after beating Rapid Vienna 4-0 at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on Thursday evening.
Matias Vecino put the Nerazzurri ahead 11 minutes in, before Andrea Ranocchia put the encounter to bed with a second not long after. Ivan Perisic bagged Inter’s third and Matteo Politano a fourth at the death.
In front of 7.000 visiting Rapid fans that coloured the away end and chanted for 90 minutes, and in front of Mauro Icardi and Wanda Nara, the Nerazzurri put on a convincing display.
Rapid Vienna surprised the Nerazzurri with an aggressive start, with two corners in the opening six minutes, with Thomas Murg heading over the bar.
Inter though got the goal which more or less killed the tie, as Vecino fired home to beat goalkeeper Richard Strebinger after Antonio Candreva had incredibly missed from close range.
Not long passed until Ranocchia doubled the Nerazzurri’s lead with a fine volley from the edge of the box.
Andrija Pavlovic worried Inter with a shot which went just wide, but Rapid did little more to try and turn the game around.
In fact, it was Inter who almost scored again, but Candreva made the case for another contender for miss of the season.
Ranocchia and Lautaro Martinez went close to scoring again, but it was Perisic who got on the scoresheet, dribbling past the goalkeeper and deliciously chipping the ball in the back of the net. Politano then made it four for Inter in the dying moments of the game.
Inter are back in the Round of 16 of a European competition since 2014/15, when they crashed out against Wolfsburg in the Europa League.
UNITED WITH THE CAPTAIN SPIRIT
Icardi was in the stands, looking down on the teammates he used to captain. Samir Handanovic was wearing the armband again. But it was another former captain who showed a moment of magic, as Ranocchia scored a real beauty to put Inter 2-0 up. All the Inter players gathered to hug Ranocchia – a sign that the changing room and the players are as united as ever without Icardi. A deserved goal, a reward for all the time spent on the bench, without ever complaining and always showing his utmost love for the fans and for the club that pays his wages. A round of applause for Ranocchia, who was Inter captain in the 2014/15 season, straight after the end of the Javier Zanetti era, and just before the start of the Icardi (and Wanda) one.
It wasn’t exactly the toughest opponent for Lautaro to test himself, but he has shown he can be counted upon in recent matches. However, Inter might need other attacking options, as El Toro showed signs of fatigue, having started his third consecutive match in a week, that, after spending most of the season on the bench. He does offer more help to the team compared to Icardi, and has shown great dedication and also quality when needed, but a tired Lautaro will need to rest. Either Icardi somehow returns, or Spalletti will have to come up with something up front. El Toro came off on 65 minutes, and Politano played as a false nine, scoring like a true centre forward – could this be it for Inter?