“When the nature of the match is almost meaningless as Inter has already secured a spot in the next round, while Benfica has been eliminated, it easily leads to the expectation of a dull encounter. However, Inter knows how to turn the situation around and escaped with a spectacular comeback.”
Saying that Inter lacked motivation in this match is not entirely accurate as the top spot in the group has not been determined yet. However, regardless of the result at Estadio da Luz, they still have the chance to decide their fate when facing Real Sociedad at home in the final round. Therefore, the decision to rotate almost the entire lineup by coach Simone Inzaghi can be understood.
While coach Schmidt fielded the strongest lineup, which had won the derby against Sporting on Sunday, with only one change as Tengstedt started instead of Musa, Inzaghi made extensive changes with 8 positions. Only 3 players remained in the defense: Darmian, De Vrij, and Acerbi. Goalkeeper Emil Audero, on loan from Sampdoria, made his debut, similar to Klaassen’s first Champions League match. Upfront were the substitute striker pair, Sanchez and Arnautovic, who returned from injury.
Understandably, with such a lineup, Inter started to balance, and the first 45 minutes saw the ball mostly rolling in their half. This was due to many players who had never played together. The distance between the players was not maintained properly, and Klaassen seemed overwhelmed and disoriented. Asllani did not show much progress compared to last year, and the attack only brought back memories of the Thuram-Lautaro pair. The consequence came at the moment with a goal from Joao Mario in the 5th minute and by the 34th minute. The score was 3-0 with a hat-trick from this familiar figure as if he needed to settle scores with his old team. Inter endured the first half, waiting for the break like a boxer holding his breath waiting for the final bell. Coach Inzaghi entered the dressing room with a dark and unusual face. His players turned him into a fool.
A completely different Inter returned in the second half, perhaps because they had nothing to lose, but mostly from wounded pride after hearing Inzaghi’s fiery speeches from the dressing room. Trubin, after saving two free-kick attempts from Carlos Augusto and Sanchez, finally had to pick the ball out of the net for the first time in the 51st minute after Arnautovic’s close-range shot. However, VAR had to confirm its validity after the assistant referee incorrectly raised the flag. Nerazzurri completed the spectacular comeback to draw 3-3 when Frattesi and Sanchez (penalty) scored in the 58th and 72nd minutes, respectively. The “tragicomedy” created by Inter could even push the climax one level higher if Barella’s shot had not hit the crossbar in the 5th minute of injury time. If they had won 4-3, Inter’s task in the final round would have been easier.
Group D’s situation:
- Both Inter and Sociedad have already secured spots in the next round, and with the developments in the fifth round, Nerazzurri must beat Sociedad in the last round to finish first. Thanks to a better goal difference, Sociedad only needs a draw to achieve its goal.
- The ticket to the Europa League is a competition between Red Bull Salzburg and Benfica, with a significant advantage for the Austrian club. Playing at home, Salzburg will still finish third if they do not lose to Benfica by a margin of two or more goals.”