Inter scrape by frustrated Lille
Claudio Ranieri's beleaguered Inter Milan earned some breathing space with a narrow 1-0 UEFA Champions League victory over Lille at the Stade Metropole.
Inter dropped to the brink of the Serie A relegation zone after a loss to Catania at the weekend, but Giampaolo Pazzini's 21st-minute volley was enough for Italians to go top of Group B today in Europe.
The Italian side now has twice as many wins in three European games as they do in seven Serie A matches, while for Lille it was only a second-ever defeat at home in the Champions League.
Inter were presented with an early chance when Marko Basa fouled Mauro Zarate 25 yards out after three minutes, but Wesley Sneijder's free-kick was comfortably saved by Vincent Enyeama.
After 20 minutes Eden Hazard saw his shot blocked by Lucio and moments later his side were behind. Zarate was the provider, sending in a perfect cross for Pazzini to hammer home a volley from 12 yards.
Lille responded, dominating possession, but failed to create many clear-cut chances. Mathieu Debuchy brought a save out of Julio Cesar with an ambitious effort from distance and the rebound was fired over by Joe Cole, who was again wasteful from 25 yards just before the half-hour mark.
As the half progressed Zarate saw a shot from the edge of the box blocked by Basa and Maicon shot wide for Inter, while Lille could not turn their possession into chances.
The hosts continued to see more of the ball at the start of the second period, Moussa Sow bringing a save out of Julio Cesar five minutes after the restart. Lucio then threw himself in front of Florent Balmont's strike to deny Lille an equaliser just after the hour mark before Dimitri Payet went agonisingly close in the 66th minute.
Payet had only been on the pitch for three minutes when he produced a neat bit of skill and curling shot, but a diving Julio Cesar turned the ball behind at full stretch.
Cole fired over again and Payet had a shot blocked, while at the other end Dejan Stankovic, on for Sneijder, had an effort tipped over by Enyeama.
Lille found an immovable object in their way in the shape of Julio Cesar, who comfortably held Franck Beria's shot and Mathieu Debuchy's header. And when he saved from Hazard moments from the end, it confirmed a frustrating evening for Lille.