Holders Inter Milan thumped hapless Werder Bremen 4-0 in UEFA Champions League Group A at the San Siro on Wednesday.
Cameroon captain Samuel Eto'o scored a brilliant hat-trick, taking his tally to 11 goals in nine games this season, and Dutch playmaker Wesley Sneijder added the fourth as the Germans' defence offered their hosts a plethora of gifts. Inter now top the group with four points, while for porous visitors it was the third time in 10 games this season they had conceded four goals.
Despite the dominant nature of their victory, Inter coach Rafael Benitez denied it had been their best performance of this campaign. "We played better against Bari (also a 4-0 win), we had a great second half against Bologna (0-0) and we started well against Udinese (2-1)," he said before turning his attentions to Eto'o.
The Cameroon forward played down the middle because of an injury to Argentine Diego Milito and the move clearly paid dividends. But Benitez is not convinced. "Samuel is also close to scoring even when he plays on the left," he added.
In a pulsating opening it could have been 2-2 inside 10 minutes. First Hugo Almeida ran onto a ball over the top for Bremen and lobbed the onrushing Julio Cesar, but he didn't get enough purchase on his effort and Lucio got back to clear. Then, a minute later, Almeida forced Cesar into a sprawling save from a free-kick.
On seven minutes French winger Jonathan Biabiany showed great pace to skin former Inter defender Mikael Silvestre before crossing for teenage Brazilian Coutinho, who should have done better than head wide from eight yards. Two minutes later Countinho turned provider, with a chipped ball over the top for Sneijder, but Tim Wiese got just enough of a touch to deflect the ball behind for a corner.
Bremen should have been in front on 20 minutes but Almeida somehow failed to make contact with Tim Borowski's cross from six yards out with the goal gaping. The visitors were made to pay in spectacular fashion. As the Germans tried to pass the ball out of defence, Daniel Jensen was caught by Esteban Cambiasso, whose prod sent Eto'o in on goal and he slipped the ball under Wiese on 21 minutes.
Eto'o got his second after Bremen failed to deal with a lofted pass from Lucio, the Cameroonian taking a touch as the visiting defenders ball-watched and finishing with aplomb.
Inter were rampant and a neat passing move ended with Wiese tipping Dejan Stankovic's shot over. On 34 minutes it was all over as a defence-splitting pass from Eto'o sent Sniejder in to fire into the top corner.
Inter were so comfortable that coach Rafael Benitez replaced goalkeeper Cesar with debutant Luca Castellazzi at half-time. The Italians were playing with freedom after the break and Wiese had to make a smart save to deny Coutinho, while Sebastien Proedl was perhaps fortunate to get away with a yellow card as he brought down Biabiany as he burst into the box; Sneijder firing the resulting free-kick over the bar.
Eto'o completed his hat-trick on 81 minutes as he outstripped Werder's defence to latch onto Sneijder's through-ball, round Wiese and slot into the empty net.