Inter beat Lille to strengthen grip
© AFP

Inter Milan emerged from their domestic doldrums to move a step closer to the UEFA Champions League knockout stages with a narrow 2-1 win over French champions Lille.

Saturday's 2-1 home defeat by Juventus was Inter's fifth loss in nine league games and left them one place above the Serie A relegation zone. But Inter, who won 1-0 at Lille two weeks ago, are top of Group B and strengthened their grip through Walter Samuel's header and Diego Milito's second-half strike before Vinicius De Melo pulled a late goal back for Lille.

Inter started like men possessed as Milito hit the bar in the second minute with a lofted shot before Cristian Chivu had an effort blocked by Benoit Pedretti less than a minute later.

An entertaining opening saw Mauro Zarate's effort saved by Mickael Landreau and Pedretti drill a shot wide at the other end. Pedretti was again off target a minute later, while team-mate Ireneusz Jelen had an effort blocked from inside the box.

Zarate forced a save from Landreau with his fizzing 18th-minute shot and seconds later the deadlock was broken. Wesley Sneijder's corner was typically dangerous and centre-back Samuel was happy to capitalise as he powered home the header.

Inter goalkeeper Luca Castellazzi had to be alert to save from both Eden Hazard - a shot from 35 yards which he parried away - and Jelen, whose effort was comfortably caught. Lille striker Moussa Sow then belatedly got involved with an off-target shot from 20 yards before Zarate's lacklustre effort was saved and Dejan Stankovic's overhead kick flew over.

Milito fired over early in the second half before Hazard was also off target at the other end. Further Milito chances came and went while Lille defender David Rozehnal saw a shot go over.

Inter were 2-0 up in the 65th minute when Javier Zanetti whipped the ball in and Milito connected to finally get himself on the scoresheet. Lille playmaker Joe Cole had two efforts which were off target and the French champions showed signs of a fightback when De Melo lobbed Castellazzi in the 83rd minute, but it was too little, too late