Just 12 minutes into its UEFA Youth League tie with Spartak Moscow, the Inter Milan Primavera seemed poised to make easy work of the Russian champions.
But, it took penalties for the Nerazzurri to get past their Russian opponents 6-4 and into the round of 16 of the tournament.
“We’ve come from a period where we never conceded goals, playing as a tough and solid team,” Inter coach Stefano Vecchi told Inter TV following the match. “Recently, we’ve lost concentration on too many occasions, which has led to many matches like this.”
Xian Emmers blasted home a ball past goalkeeper Aleksandr Maksimenko to put the Nerazzurri on top in the 12th minute.
But, within eight minutes of the goal, Spartak got a pair of goals from Soltmurad Bakaev in the 29th minute and Danila Proshliakov in the 37th minute to go up 2-1.
Mateo Rover – who came on as a substitute for Tommaso Brignoli – had a pair of late attempts pushed away by Maksimenko before halftime.
After the break, Bakaev nearly put Spartak up 3-1, but Inter goalkeeper Vladan Dekic was up to the task and cleared the danger. Both teams went back and forth with Emmers and Facundo Colidio each coming up just short of equalizing.
It was Jens Odgaard who finally broke through for Inter after getting a through-ball from Andrea Pinamonti in the 83rd minute. Four minutes later, the Nerazzurri took just their second lead of the game thanks to an own-goal by Danili Petrunin.
That celebration, like the one in the first half, was short-lived after Spartak was awarded a penalty following Manuel Lombardoni’s takedown of Bakaev in the area. Aleksandr Rudenko converted to tie the game and sent it into extra time.
Neither team was able to connect in extra frames, so they lined up for penalties. Colidio, Pinamonti and Emmers connected for the Nerazzurri while Dekic halted a pair of attempts despite Rover hitting the post. Finally, Petrunin stepped up but his attempt sailed over the bar, giving Inter the 6-4 win.
“We deserved the win but problems in defense complicated things for us. However, the team’s character shone through in the end and we deservedly went through,” Vecchi said. “We have a team with important values. Unfortunately, we sit back a bit too much at times. We must be more solid and resilient.”
Knocking out Spartak Moscow moves Inter into the knockout phase of the tournament where they will face one of eight group winners: Barcelona, FC Basel, Bayern Munich, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, FC Porto or Tottenham Hotspur.
“It is an important achievement for us. It was a tough match with some really good play. The match should have been over earlier on, but then we deservedly won on penalties,” Vecchi said. “We always do well from the spot and Vladan did well to save them. However, we mustn’t celebrate how we performed after this victory, instead, we need to look at the details and see how we can improve in games like this.”
Inter returns to Campionato Nazionale Primavera play on Feb. 11 when they take on league-leading Atalanta – who presently sit two points ahead of the Nerazzurri who are in second.
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