Inter Milan were the only side out of the three which played their round of 32 fixtures to come away with all the three points. Inter, Lazio and Napoli were the representatives from Serie A in this year’s Europe league knockout stages. This is an important competition for the Italians as you may or may not know, the Serie A recently lost their fourth spot in the Champions League to the Bundesliga. Unfortunately, the Europa League was the reason why, as Italian sides treat this competition as a nuisance.
Inter 2-0 Cluj – Inter on home played against Romanian club CFR Cluj and a Rodrigo Palacio brace ensured the Nerazzurri a near guaranteed spot in the next round. With a negligible chance of challenging for the title, a Champions league qualification battle with rivals AC Milan and Lazio will be the main focus for Inter this term. However the Europa league is always an additional bonus.
A 2-0 win at home coupled with some excellent football was a delight to watch. Palacio who was on the bench at the start of the match replaced Deigo Milito as early as the 7th minutes as the striker fell awkwardly to injure his knee. The visitors did not hesitate to take the game to the home side as Robert Maah volleyed a shot early in the match and though, the Italians were shaky to start off things they managed to lift their game without much effort.
Cambiasso was through on goal by an excellent pass from Cassano but the Argentine’s shot was way off target. It was the substitute Palacio who broke the deadline around the 20th minute. Cluj threatened to fight back but it was all in vain as Inter managed to hold their lead. The second half was a bit drag, neither Cluj or Inter dominated the game.
Palacio scored his second goal of the night in the final minutes of the game thanks to an assist from Kovacic. The forward drew the Cluj goalkeeper out of his net and scored with a delightfull lob from a tight angle. A 2-0 win made sure Inter have the advantage when they travel to the Radulescu Stadium on February 21st.
Borussia Monchengladbach 3-3 Lazio – The visiting side from Rome tied the match with a dramatic late equalizer from Libor Kozak, who struck twice in this match along with on-fire bomber Sergio Floccari. Football doesn’t get any better than this, a 6 goal thriller from two competitive sides. Monchengladbach hosted the Italian side who were without the likes of Miroslav Klose, Cristian Brocchi and Stefano Mauri who are all out injured. The hosts took the lead as Martin Stranzl converted from a spot kick after Lazio defender Andre Dias mistimed his tackle and Patrick Hermann to force the penalty.
However, the Italians never seemed to lose hope and their fighting spirit payed off as they turned around the match to lead 1-2 thanks to goals from Floccari and Kozak in a span of ten minutes. With just over 30 minutes left to play, both the teams had everything to play for as the game became much open. The Germans finally managed to equalise at the 84th minute, this time courtesy of another penalty which was taken by Thorben Marx to make it 2-2.
The Germans unbelievably managed to score the third goal of the night from a 30 metre free kick which was netted in by Arango to give the home side a 3-2 lead. However, Lazio were not quite finished. A late equaliser deep into the stoppage time saw the match end with a spectacular scoreline of 3-3. It will be an interesting match back at the Stadio Olimpico.
Napoli 0-3 Viktoria Plzen – Absolute embarrassment from the Partenopei, who got blasted at the San Paolo. A 0-3 defeat for a side who is challenging for the title is quite a shock and what’s even more surprising is the usual starters were all on the pitch.
It is their heaviest loss ever in the European stage and they are practically out of the competition unless a miracle happens when they travel to Czech Republic.