Ten-man Inter crashed out of the Europa League after letting a two-goal lead slip as Hapoel Be’er Sheva roared back in the second half to win 3-2 on Thursday.
Although Inter’s 2-2 derby draw against AC Milan in Stefano Pioli’s first match as coach on Sunday gave fans reason for optimism, in the end there were few positives to come from their trip to Israel, as the Italian giants’ already slim hopes of reaching the knockout phase were vanquished.
Despite finding themselves in the uncomfortable position of partly relying on the outcome of Southampton’s trip to Sparta Prague in the other Group K fixture, Inter played with freedom during the first half and were deserving of a 2-0 lead thanks to goals from Mauro Icardi and Marcelo Brozovic.
Icardi went close to giving Inter a third when he struck the crossbar just after the break, but Hapoel swiftly capitalised and pulled one back through Lucio Maranhao.
Hapoel then levelled against the odds through Anthony Nwakaeme, with goalkeeper Samir Handanovic receiving his marching orders in the process of conceding the spot-kick.
The home side piled on the pressure and deep into stoppage time, Ben Sahar struck to further confirm Inter’s exit and leave Hapoel needing just a score draw in their final game at Southampton to progress.
Inter almost found themselves in real trouble as early as the fourth minute when Maor Buzaglo saw his low right-wing cross deflect off Yuto Nagatomo and on to the bar.
But if anything, that scare jolted Inter into life and they were ahead eight minutes later, as Icardi got ahead of his marker and steered Eder’s clever disguised cross in at the near post.
The visitors then doubled their advantage just before the half-hour mark and in some style.
Eder inspired a lovely one-touch passing move from the left, gradually making his way inside and exchanging possession with Icardi and Ever Banega, before spreading the play to Brozovic and the Croatian slammed a fine left-footed effort in off the far post from 20 yards.
Inter’s control continued into the second half and Icardi almost grabbed himself an emphatic second in the 52nd minute, as the Argentinian drove a fierce effort on to the crossbar from just inside the box.
Hapoel took full advantage of that let-off and gave themselves a lifeline just before the hour mark – Maranhao heading Maharan Radi’s sweeping cross past Handanovic.
That goal sparked a real upsurge from the hosts and Buzaglo won a penalty 19 minutes from time as Handanovic rushed out to tackle the striker and wildly caught him in the face with a flailing foot, earning himself a second yellow card in the process.
Nwakaeme dispatched the resulting spot-kick past substitute goalkeeper Juan Pablo Carrizo.
Hapoel poured men forward towards the end and their persistence paid off in stoppage time, as Mohammad Ghadir brilliantly back-heeled a pass across the edge of the box and substitute Sahar coolly beat Carrizo to leave the delirious home fans dreaming of a place in the last 32.
Key Opta stats:
– Prior to this season, Inter had progressed to the group stages of the Europa League/Champions League in each of their last 10 attempts.
– Inter have lost six of the last seven Europa League games, scoring seven goals and conceding 15.
– Hapoel Be’er Sheva has scored five goals in the Europa League, all against Inter.
– Eder has delivered two assist in a single game for the first time between Serie A and Europa League.