Champions League - Poor Inter beaten at home
Ondrej Celustka's late goal gave Trabzonspor a shock 1-0 victory at Internazionale as the Italian giants' poor start to the season continued in the Champions League.
Beaten 4-3 by Palermo in the Serie A season-opener at the weekend, this time Inter were awful going forward and were punished when Czech defender Celustka angled home a 76th-minute shot after Halil Altintop’s volley hit the bar.
The hosts had hardly created a host of chances, but those that were carved out fell short either due to good goalkeeping from Tolga Zengin or poor finishing from Giampaolo Pazzini, Mauro Zarate and substitute Diego Milito.
Tolga, who has spent his entire career at Trabzonspor, also made a late stop from substitute Philippe Coutinho as his side closed out a famous win to give them a 2-1 head-to-head record against the Italian giants.
The defeat means that Inter have now only won one in their last six Champions League opening matches, a strange record for a team usually able to make the latter stages, winning it in 2010.
Trabzonspor have beaten Inter before - in the second leg of their UEFA Cup first-round match in 1983 - but went out 3-1 on aggregate back then.
Coach Senol Gunes kept goal in those days and, watching from the stands due to a UEFA touchline ban, he would have been proud of his modern-day counterpart Tolga, who was the superb last line of what was a resolute defence.
In truth Inter had toiled, but Tolga was called into action on several occasions, first when Zarate went on a mazy dribble before firing a low drive towards the near post.
That was just after the half hour and, from the resultant corner, Inter’s wastefulness reared its head as the cumbersome Pazzini kicked air after Wesley Sneijder’s cross wreaked havoc.
Pazzini had another bite a minute later, this time foiled by a Peter Schmeichel-esque block from the onrushing keeper, who kept the Italy striker out from point-blank range.
Sneijder had been restored to the starting line-up after being dropped for the Palermo game, with Inter switching to a 4-4-2 after their 3-4-3 in that match saw them leave gaping holes at the back.
While they were more solid defensively - Lucio impressing as Paulo Henrique and Altintop were largely subdued - there was hardly any vigour about their front line, with Sneijder’s radar off for much of the match.
The Dutchman clearly has a problem with speculation - he started last season weakly after a proposed move to Manchester United stalled, and a similar situation has emerged this autumn.
Still, he worked hard enough and the majority of the blame must be laid at the feet of his strikers, who looked half-bothered at the start of the second half, with the standout player Trabzonspor midfielder Gustavo Colman, who combined energetic runs forward with a couple of excellent blocks on the edge of his own box.
Under-pressure Inter boss Gian Piero Gasperino reacted by introducing Milito, strangely benched after his two-goal performance against Palermo, but he had a bit of a shocker by his standards as he was unable to beat Tolga from close range after exploiting a prostrate defender to break the offside trap.
The Argentine star followed that up with a poor miss as he headed wide from six yards, and with no Diego Forlan to look to - the Uruguayan is cup-tied until the knockout rounds - Gasperini threw on attacking midfielder Coutinho for the disappointing Zarate.
But it was Trabzonspor who made the breakthrough when, after Inter’s first piece of hesitance in defending a set-piece, Lucio’s defensive header dropped to an unchallenged Altintop, who crashed in a volley via a deflection from Andrea Ranocchia.
It did not go in, bouncing off the crossbar and dropping to Celustka, who still had a lot to do but exploited continued hesitance in the Inter defence before fashioning a low daisy-cutter that bamboozled the previously untested Julio Cesar before nestling inside the far post.
Inter made a token effort to equalise, throwing men forward but often electing to dive when close to the box, with Coutinho’s low shot palmed away by Tolga with two minutes remaining.
Four additional minutes made little difference as Inter’s malaise continued into the new season, with Gasperini already on borrowed time at a club happy to dispose of men with greater reputations at short notice.