Internatzionale look certain to qualify for the UEFA Europa League group stage after claiming a 3-0 victory at Icelandic side UMF Stjarnan on Wednesday night in their play-off match at the Laugardalsvollur Stadium in Reykjavik.
Mauro Icardi opened the scoring in the 41st minute after the Italian side had dominated the first half. Dodo doubled the lead shortly after the break as Inter cantered to a victory that should set up a straightforward second leg back on home soil.
The return leg is set for next Thursday at Inter's Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, and the Nerazzurri will be heavy favourites to advance to the Europa League group stage with a two-legged victory.
For Stjarnan, a team best known for inventive goal celebrations, reaching this stage of Europa League qualification is something of a dream. Having successfully navigated three rounds already, the Icelandic side have been looking forward to testing themselves against a big club like Inter.
"This has been an insane experience for us, and now we are going to play at [the] San Siro," striker Veiger Pall Gunnarsson told UEFA.com. "To play with Stjarnan, my boyhood club, against a team [like Inter] is a dream come true."
Inter, however, will be setting their sights higher. After last season's fifth-place finish in Serie A, the Nerazzurri will hope to make an impression in Europe this term while improving their league position domestically.
As expected, Inter dominated their less illustrious opponents from the outset and quickly started creating chances. But the Italian side needed most of the first half to make the breakthrough.
Icardi grazed the crossbar with a header in the opening moments before Andrea Ranocchia headed off the post from a Jonathan corner in the 24th minute.
But Inter kept attacking and finally went ahead in the 41st minute through Icardi. Dodo chipped a cross into the goalmouth, the ball taking a slight deflection off a defender before reaching Icardi. After taking a touch, the Inter forward finished low at the right-hand post for the game's opening goal.
With that, Inter took a 1-0 lead into half-time. Within moments of the restart, the Nerazzurri doubled their advantage.
Jonathan played provider for the second, bringing down the ball on the right before cutting inside and crossing for Dodo. The latter headed in at the back post, with Stjarnan unable to clear off the line in time.
Stjarnan responded with an encouraging counter-attack in the 60th minute, but Arnar Mar Bjoergvinsson was unable to trouble Inter goalkeeper Samir Handanovic.
The final 30 minutes saw Inter coach Walter Mazzarri introduce Pablo Daniel Osvaldo, Danilo D'Ambrosio and Zdravko Kuzmanovic. Osvaldo hit the woodwork in the 87th minute before D'Ambrosio and Kuzmanovic combined for Inter's third goal two minutes later.
Accepting a pass from Kuzmanovic along the edge of the box, D'Ambrosio powered into the top corner from the edge of the box to complete a comprehensive win.
With that, the Italian side returned home with a three-goal advantage that will almost certainly see them through to the Europa League group stage.
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