Soccer-Inter inflict first Champions League defeat on debutants Sheriff


Soccer Football - Champions League - Group D - Inter Milan v Sheriff Tiraspol - San Siro, Milan, Italy - October 19, 2021 Inter Milan's Edin Dzeko celebrates scoring their first goal with teammates REUTERS/Daniele Mascolo

ROME (Reuters) -Inter Milan ended Sheriff Tiraspol’s perfect start to their debut Champions League campaign with a comfortable 3-1 win at San Siro on Tuesday, the Italians’ first victory in Group D.

The Moldovans earned shock wins against Shakhtar Donetsk and Real Madrid to become unlikely group leaders and they remain top with six points, two ahead of Inter in third but level with Real, who won 5-0 in Ukraine.

An Edin Dzeko volley put Inter ahead at halftime but Sebastien Thill, scorer of Sheriff’s spectacular late winner in Madrid, produced a curling free kick from long range to draw the visitors level in the 52nd minute.

However, Arturo Vidal’s strike edged Inter back in front six minutes later, before Stefan de Vrij ended any hopes of another upset with a neat finish in the 67th minute.

“We played the game we had to play. They were coming off two wins and came here flying high on enthusiasm," Inter coach Simone Inzaghi told Sky Italia.

"It was a complicated match, but we created a lot, we hit the post and the bar. We can still improve a lot but we played a great game."

The Moldovans' surprise success has been one of the stories of the Champions League so far but Inter, who failed to score in their opening two group games, managed to avoid another upset with a controlled performance.

Dzeko had a shot charged down by Dumitru Celeadnic early on, but there was nothing the goalkeeper could do to stop the striker’s wonderfully controlled volley into the top corner in the 34th minute after a corner was flicked into his path.

It gave the hosts a deserved lead, and they went in at the break as the only team to have produced 14 shots in a first half twice this season, having done so in their 1-0 defeat to Real Madrid last month.

“It was almost a make or break match. We had to win, they have six points, which nobody was expecting. When they hit you on the counter-attack they are dangerous, but we did well and three points is the most important thing," Dzeko said to Sky Italia.

Sheriff came out strongly in the second half, with Bruno testing Samir Handanovic from range before Thill’s exceptional effort from 25 yards out sparked wild celebrations.

Ivan Perisic’s shot rattled the outside of the post two minutes before Vidal fired home the goal that settled Inter nerves and quickly restored their lead.

Inzaghi’s side earned a cushion when a corner was headed into the path of De Vrij, who turned in a volley from close range.

The margin of victory could have been even greater by fulltime, as Perisic blasted a shot off the bar and Lautaro Martinez had a late effort tipped over.

“We tried our best by playing our football, but in the first half we went behind," Sheriff manager Yuriy Vernydub told a news conference.

"After the break we reorganised and scored, but it wasn’t enough. But I am happy with my players, we fought until the last minute."

(Reporting by Alasdair MackenzieEditing by Toby Davis)

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