Inter Milan encountered smooth sailing during its trip to Azerbaijan on Thursday, registering a routine 3-1 victory over Neftchi Baku in Group H of the UEFA Europa League.
Goals from Philippe Coutinho, Joel Obi and Marko Livaja, all of which were set up by Fredy Guarin, fired the Nerazzurri to a comfortable three points on their travels despite Nicolas Canales' second-half reply, but the scoreline arguably did not tell the story of the dominance exhibited by the visitors.
From the first whistle, Andrea Stramaccioni's young side was in control of the proceedings and was happy to adopt a patient build-up style until Fredy Guarin's quick burst of pace saw him break the offside trap and allow Coutinho to flick home in the 10th minute. Guarin was at it again 20 minutes later, racing towards the Neftchi box, and his drilled cross was aptly finished by Obi. The strike marked Inter's 500th goal in Europe.
With just three minutes of the first half remaining, Guarin capped off a fine period of play, using his vision to thread through a defense-splitting pass for Livaja to get his head on before finishing.
They hosts appeared to return to the pitch with renewed vigor after halftime, as Mahir Shukurov charged into the Inter box and forced Handanovic into a stop, before Julius Wobar took on Matias Silvestre and saw his low cross fall into the path of Canales at the far post.
Unfortunately for Neftchi, the hosts failed to follow that up with any more tallies, as the match faded into a scrappy affair. For Inter, the group favorite moves level with Rubin Kazan at the top of the four-team table, and Neftchi falls to the bottom.
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- Neftchi Baku
- Philippe Coutinho
- UEFA Europa League
- Joel Obi