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Tuesday, November 01, 2005 

Cruz control revives Inter

Two goals from second-half substitute Julio Cruz helped Inter to a 2-1 win over Porto at the San Siro on Tuesday after Hugo Almeida had put the visitors in the lead with a 16th minute free-kick.

Porto went in front after 16 minutes when Hugo Almeida - preferred to Benni McCarthy up front - lashed home a thirty yard free-kick.

Inter pressed and eventually got their rewards, Julio Cruz coming on for Adriano and converting a 72nd minute penalty before heading home a David Pizarro corner to seal the win for Roberto Mancini's side.

Inter Milan started the game top of Group H with six points but struggling domestically after picking up only one point in their last two games.

Porto - while bottom of their group - were at least in second place domestically and confident in the knowledge that their 2-0 win in the corresponding fixture in Portugal gave them a psychological edge before this match.

As expected Inter piled on the pressure early on, the first quarter of the hour seeing only one Porto attempt at an attack.

But Adriano and Martins looked rusty and in spite of Pierre Womé and Luis Figo huffing and puffing on the wings it was Porto who took the lead on 16 minutes, a long-range free-kick smashed into the top left-hand corner by Hugo Almeida as Julio Cesar somewhat bizarrely attempted to use his right hand for the diving save when surely the left would have been better.

Inter continued to press but to little avail, Adriano looking tired and uninspired and Porto able to play Inter on the break through the middle almost at will.

The time came for Roberto Mancini to earn his coin. Not having the best of times results or discipline-wise at home - receiving a two-match ban in Serie A after insulting a referee - Mancini saw the problems and brought on Julio Cruz for the ineffective Adriano, Estaban Cambiasso for the energetic but ultimately too-wide Pierre Womé, and Sinisa Mhajlovic as a set-piece option for Walter Samuel.

Inter came back into the game somewhat fortuitously, Pedro Emanuel trying to pull his leg away as David Pizarro cleverly went over on the edge of the box, Julio Cruz making no mistake to send the subsequent spot-kick low and hard into the bottom left on 72 minutes.

Then wonderful save from a typical Mihajlovic free-kick earned Porto a reprieve and Vitor Baia a sore knee, the Portugal international landing awkwardly on the post while diving to his right.

A series of corners came as a direct result of the save, the final delivery headed home powerfully by Julio Cruz again to give Inter a hard-earned lead.

The Italians continued to press, eager to keep the ball as far away from Julio Cesar's goal as possible, and held out for the win with the relief tangible on Mancini's face.

Inter now top Group H with nine points from four games after three consecutive wins, Porto in the fourth and final position.

sources: Eurosport.com, uefa.com

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