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Schalke breathe easy, Inter slump at Sparta


Paris (AFP) – Inter Milan were stunned at Sparta Prague, Schalke 04 put their Bundesliga woes to one side when cruising past Salzburg while Mario Balotelli got on the score sheet for Nice again in Europa League action.

AFP Sports picks out the best of the early games from matchday two on Thursday:

Schalke reborn in Europe

While Schalke 04 have suffered five consecutive Bundesliga losses under new coach Markus Weinzierl, the Blues skipped to a 3-1 win over Austrians Salzburg. This season has brought them their worst ever start to a Bundesliga season where they have yet to earn a single point. But with goals from Leon Goretzka, who headed home the opener on 15 minutes, Benedikt Howedes from a corner and an own goal in a scramble, Schalke made it two wins from two in Group I after their 1-0 win at Nice last time out. It was their 14th unbeaten game in the Europa League group phase. For Salzburg, Jonatan Soriano exposed the German team’s defensive frailties with his 72nd-minute consolation.

Kladec brace sees Sparta stun Inter

Two early strikes from Vacvlav Kladec gave Sparta Prague the impetus to eventually overcome ten-man Inter Milan 3-1 at the Generali Arena. Inter may be third in Serie A, but in Europe they are strugging having lost 2-0 at home to Hapoel Be’er Sheva on matchday one. After defender Andrea Ranocchia was sent off, Sparta striker Mario Holek headed home the ensuing free-kick and the Italians looked dead and buried with 15 minutes to go. Coach Frank de Boer will have been furious as Inter captain Rodrigo Palacio had on 71 minutes dragged them back into contention, finishing off a fine move to make it 2-1. 

Balotelli on target but Nice beaten again

Krasnodar crushed Nice 5-2 in Group I for a second Europa League win for the Russians, who also won 1-0 at Salzburg two weeks ago. For Nice it was a second defeat from two games following a 1-0 home loss to Schalke. But for the Ligue 1 leaders, their romance with Italian striker Mario Balotelli continues to bloom as the 26-year-old got his fifth goal in four games. Trailing after strikes from Fedor Smolov on 22 minutes and Joaozinho, 11 minutes later, Balotelli slipped as he struck a curling shot home in the 43rd minute before bending over to cough and retch having complained of fever overnight. For the in-form Russians, there were braces from the two Brazilians Joaozinho and Ari, who replaced Smolov when he limped off after his opener.

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