's volley gave Inter a very tight but important 1-0 victory away to Lille.
The Nerazzurri hoped to recover from two consecutive Serie A defeats, but welcomed back Wesley Sneijder, Julio Cesar,and from injury. Diego Forlan and Luc Castaignos were ineligible, plus the injured Philippe Coutinho. Lille had lost just one of their last 31 outings and could count on stars , and Joe Cole.
It was a special occasion, marking Inter's 100th Champions League match.
Lille showed great defensive alertness in the opening minutes, as crucial tackles from Franck Beria and Aurelien Chedjou stopped Douglas Maicon and Giampaolo Pazzini on the counter.
The hosts sent the vast majority of their attacks down the right flank, while Cole's shot was charged down for a corner, but it was Inter who broke the deadlock with the first real chance.
Yuto Nagatomo won back the ball on the halfway line and Sneijder spread the play for Zarate at the by-line to pull back for Pazzini's volley from nine yards.
Lille came back in waves. Julio Cesar was at full stretch to fingertip a dangerous Hazard cross away from danger, while the Brazilian also had his palms stung by Moussa Sow's screamer.
Sneijder was annoyed when he seemed to be clear on goal, but was halted due to a previous - rather harsh - Pazzini foul on Benoit Pedretti.
Hazard dribbled past bothand Nagatomo, but then ran out of room at the by-line. Zarate decided to go on his own slalom, ended only when Marko Basa deflected his finish wide for a corner.
Cole threaded through a fine pass for Sow and Julio Cesar rushed off his line to smother at the Lille hitman's feet.
At the other end, Chedjou needed some acrobatic defending to stop Pazzini making the most of Thiago Motta's pass.
Zarate was halted clear on goal for an incorrect offside decision, as teammate Pazzini was off, but the Argentine was certainly level. Maicon also drilled a powerful but inaccurate effort just wide of the near stick in first half stoppages.
Straight after the restart Nagatomo ran a huge risk with his backpass intercepted by Sow, but Julio Cesar did very well to clear the danger with his feet.
Soon after, the Brazilian shot-stopper was again called into action, smothering a Sow snapshot deflected by Chivu. Hazard had penalty appeals for a coming together with Nagatomo, then Pazzini risked a sanction when he held out an arm and struck Chedjou behind him.
Lucio needed a crucial sliding tackle to charge down's shot for a corner from point-blank range after the offside trap failed.
It was all Lille in this second half, sointroduced Joel Obi and Dejan Stankovic for Zarate and Sneijder.
The pressure continued and Julio Cesar was at full stretch to fingertip a Dimitri Payet left-foot curler off the line. From the corner, Cole ballooned over.
Substitute Stankovic charged down another Payet strike, bouncing off his back and on to his elbow, but avoided a potential penalty. At the other end, the Serb had a snapshot fingertipped over the bar by, but Inter were essentially clinging on to their 1-0 lead.
Julio Cesar again had to smother at Sow's feet from athrough ball, then captured a glancing header. Diego Milito replaced Pazzini, though he was just unable to get on the end of a Maicon assist.
Obraniak's cross clipped the top of the crossbar in the final two minutes. In stoppages Julio Cesar flew to flap a very dangerous Hazard cross away from Basa at the back post.Lille: Enyeama; Debuchy, Basa, Chedjou, Beria; Balmont (Gueye 81), Mavuba, Pedretti (Payet 62); Cole (Obraniak 74), Sow, Hazard