Ranieri magic lifts Inter in Moscow

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MOSCOW, Russia, September 27 – New Inter Milan coach Claudio Ranieri saw the 2010 European champions chalk up their first points in Champions League Group B with a 3-2 win at CSKA Moscow here on Tuesday.

It was a testing night for the nerazzurri in the Russian capital, however, with victory not assured until Mauro Zarate netted in the 78th minute, after CSKA had fought back from 2-0 down to level the score.

Ranieri took over the Italian giants last week after Gian Piero Gasperini was sacked following a run of two defeats and a draw in their opening three Serie A games.

“We played in a proper manner today,” said Inter manager Claudio Ranieri.

“I enjoyed my team’s play. We linked up well and the players understood each other pretty well.

“But our mental strength was the key to our success. CSKA played very well but there can be only one winner, and today it was Inter.”

Ranieri had already overseen a 3-1 Serie A win at Bologna, but Inter remained fragile after the shock of their 1-0 home defeat at the hands of Turkish side Trabzonspor in their Champions League opener.

Brazilian defender Lucio and forwards Giampaolo Pazzini and Zarate were all on target as Inter recorded their fifth win over CSKA in as many Champions League meetings.

Midfielder Alan Dzagoev and Brazilian forward Vagner Love found the net for the Red Army side.

“In general it was a good match but the result is very disappointing for us,” said CSKA manager Leonid Slutsky.

“We played well in attack but the defence made serious mistakes.

“We allowed Inter too much in the beginning and failed to pull things back. It’s a pity to lose at home, but we have nobody to blame except ourselves.”

The result lifted Inter into second place in the group, equal on three points with Trabzonspor, who play French champions Lille later on Tuesday.

Inter got off to a flying start after just six minutes on the synthetic pitch of Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium when Lucio sent the ball into an unguarded net after CSKA goalkeeper Vladimir Gabulov failed to claim a corner.

In the 11th minute, Nigerian midfielder Joel Obi spurned a chance to double Inter’s lead when his close-range header from Pazzini’s right-wing cross was fielded by Gabulov.

CSKA replied positively, pinning Inter back, but the guests scored again in the 23rd minute when Yuto Nagatomo skilfully nutmegged Vasily Berezutsky before squaring for Pazzini to tap home.

On the half-hour mark, CSKA replied with an 18-yard attempt by Dzagoev, which was repelled by Julio Cesar, with Ivory Coast striker Seydou Doumbia hitting the woodwork from the resulting corner.

CSKA managed to reduce the arrears in first-half injury time, when Dzagoev beat Cesar with a well-executed 25-yard free-kick that dipped viciously beneath the crossbar.

After the interval CSKA moved up a gear and in the 48th minute Pavel Mamaev missed a clear chance to level as his 15-yard shot flashed inches wide of the right post.

The hosts continued testing Inter’s defence, however, and in the 77th minute Vagner fired in from 18 yards to pull the scores level.

But Zarate restored Inter’s lead just a minute later, scoring the winner from the edge of the area after being teed up by Esteban Cambiasso.

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