Stevan Jovetic made an instant impact on his Inter debut as he spared Roberto Mancini’s blushes with a stunning 94th-minute winner to secure a 1-0 victory over 10-man Atalanta.
The Montenegro star arrived from Manchester City for €12million during the pre-season and, although he did not start at San Siro, the former Fiorentina forward marked his return to Serie A in style, clipping in a delightful finish to rescue a wasteful Inter at the death.
Despite their dominance, Inter had great difficulty turning their surperiority into chances during the first half, with Alejandro Gomez’s early chance no doubt worrying Mancini.
An innocuous-looking injury to Mauro Icardi gave the Inter coach even more cause for concern, but his 15th-minute replacement Jovetic ultimately ended up saving the day.
Geoffrey Kondogbia, one of the new signings to start, was one of few Inter players to really catch the eye, before Carlos Carmona’s dismissal for two yellow cards gave the hosts extra motivation.
Atalanta goalkeeper Marco Sportiello appeared to have kept Inter at bay and Rodrigo Palacio struck the post late on, but Jovetic popped up in stoppage time to give Mancini a winning – if slightly unimpressive – start to the season.
The first casualty of Mancini’s big-spending close-season was club captain Andrea Ranocchia who had to be content with a place on the bench, as new recruits Jeison Murillo and Miranda occupied the two centre-back berths.
Despite the presence of the two talented defenders, Atalanta should have taken the lead within three minutes, but Gomez blazed over following Jasmin Kurtic’s lay-off after Assane Gnoukouri was caught out in midfield.
Jovetic was handed his debut after quarter of an hour in as Icardi failed to shake off a pre-match knock.
That change did little to increase the craft in the hosts’ frontline, however, as Atalanta’s disciplined defence initially showed no sign of being penetrated.
And when Inter did eventually create an opening through Palacio’s powerful low cross in the 40th minute, Marten de Roon crucially diverted the ball over his own crossbar to deny Marcelo Brozovic a certain goal.
Inter ended the half well on top, though a routine Sportiello stop thwarted Kondogbia just before the break.
Seemingly disenchanted by his side’s lack of creativity in the first period, Mancini threw Hernanes on for Gnoukouri at half-time.
But it was the lively Kondogbia who looked most likely to inspire Inter, as the midfielder forced Sportiello into action with a stinging long-range effort soon after the interval.
The home side continued to see more of the ball, but it was not until Carmona’s 71st-minute red card for a second booking that Atalanta really began to feel the pressure.
Mancini desperately urged his men forward during the closing stages and Palacio struck the upright with a clever flick-on in the 90th minute
But ultimately Atalanta could not hold on, as Jovetic proved his class by curling in a fine finish from 18 yards, sparking scenes of elation on the Inter bench.