Inter Milan's Argentine forward #10 Lautaro Martinez (L) celebrates with teammates after winning 2-1 the UEFA Champions League 1st round day 3 Group D football match between Inter Milan and Salzburg at the San Siro stadium in Milan on October 24, 2023. Photo: AFP
Goals in each half from Alexis Sanchez and Hakan Calhanoglu were enough for Inter to move up to seven points, three ahead of Real Sociedad who are at bottom side Benfica later on Tuesday.
Simone Inzaghi's side were good value for their win but were made to sweat for the three points as Salzburg caused the hosts problems and were briefly level when Oscar Gloukh stroked home a classy finish in the 57th minute.
A four-point gap between Inter and third-placed Salzburg makes qualification for the knockout stages more likely regardless of how Sociedad do in Portugal.
Sanchez's finish will also cheer Inzaghi as it showed he can drop one of star strike pairing Lautaro Martinez and Marcus Thuram without losing goal threat.
The Chile striker was a surprise pick in place of Thuram from Inzaghi, who also dropped star left-back Federico Dimarco and Nicolo Barella to the bench with a big Serie A clash with Roma coming up at the weekend.
Sanchez, 34, is now the highest scoring Chilean in Champions League history with 16 goals.
Salzburg had if anything had the better of the play in the early stages but Sanchez pounced on Inter's first real chance of the game to put the hosts ahead in the 19th minute.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan tried to feed Davide Frattesi who had made a burst into the box but his misplaced pass instead found Sanchez, who calmly stroked home his first Inter goal since returning from Marseille.
That goal took the wind out of Salzburg's sails and Inter pressed for a second, but the closest they came in the first half was in the 32nd minute when Denzel Dumfries' cross was almost turned in by Amar Dedic.
Inter almost doubled their lead in the 56th minute when Carlos Augusto flashed just wide but seconds later Gloukh drew Salzburg level with a brilliant first-time finish reminiscent of Sanchez's opener after good play from Roko Simic and Maurits Kjaergaard.
However Inter responded and were soon back in the lead when Lucas Gourna-Douath and Strahinja Pavlovic clumsily bundled over Frattesi and referee Francois Letexier quickly pointed to the penalty spot.
Calhanoglu made no mistake with his spot-kick, rifling home what turned out to be the winning goal to the right of Alexander Schlager.
Lautaro Martinez thought he had sealed the points for Inter in the 81st minute, but the strike was ruled out, Frattesi straying offside before flashing a low cross for the Argentina forward.
Salzburg pushed for a leveller but Inter held out for a win which will boost their chances of another deep run in the competition.
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