Inter Milan’s recent aversion to European football continued as they lost 3-1 to Sparta Prague on Thursday to suffer a second straight Europa League defeat this season and fourth in a row.
It is six years since Inter last won the Champions League but they have not played in Europe’s top club competition since 2012 and have now developed a losing habit in its second-tier cousin.
The three times European champions, who suffered a shock defeat in their opening Group K game at home to Israel’s Hapoel Beer Sheva, were two goals down to Sparta inside 25 minutes thanks to a double from Vaclav Kadlec.
Rodrigo Palacio pulled one back in the 71st, but any hopes of a comeback were effectively killed off when Andrea Ranocchia was sent off four minutes later and Mario Holek restored the Czech side’s two-goal advantage.
Inter’s Serie A rivals Fiorentina had no such problems as they brushed aside Qarabag 5-1 with Khouma Babacar and Mauro Zarate both scoring twice against the Azerbaijani side who played an hour with 10 men after Elvin Yunuszada was sent off.
Ajax Amsterdam ended a run of five straight home draws in Europe as they beat Standard Liege 1-0 to join FC Krasnodar, Schalke 04 and Shakhtar Donetsk on maximum points from their opening two group games.
Krasnodar won 5-2 against Nice, with the visiting French side’s Italian striker Mario Balotelli scoring his fifth goal in four games, while Schalke won 3-1 at home to Salzburg and Shakhtar defeated visitors Braga 2-0.
Results from the other games of Thursday:
FC Astana 0 – Young Boys 0
FK Qabala 2 – Mainz 3
Ajax 1 – Standard Liege 0
Celta Vigo 2 – Panathinaikos 0
KAA Gent 2 – Konyaspor 0
Shakhtar Donetsk 2 – Sporting Braga 0
Schalke 3 – Red Bull Salzburg 1
FK Krasnodar 5 – Nice 2
Fiorentina 5 – FK Qarabag 1
Slovan Liberec 1 – Paok Salonika 2
Hap. Be’er Sheva 0 – Southampton 0
Sparta Prague 3 – Inter Milan 1
FC Zurich 2 – Osmanlispor 1
Steaua Bucharest 1 – Villarreal 1