Inter Milan’s best chance at winning any hardware this season is now over.
An early goal by Luka Jovic propelled Eintracht Frankfurt to a 1-0 win over the Nerazzurri at the Giuseppe Meazza Thursday, ending Inter’s run in the tournament.
The away goal was all Die Adler needed after the teams drew 0-0 Frankfurt last week.
Lineup issues for Inter set the stage for a potential let down as Inter’s attacking options – Mauro Icardi and Lautaro Martinez – were forced to sit out. Icardi was left off due to an injury while Martinez sat out thanks to a suspension.
That left the Nerazzurri’s attacking options to Keita Balde.
And it was Frankfurt who took full advantage early.
In fact, five minutes in and the game was decided after Jovic was able to beat Stefan de Vrij to a loose ball in the back half of the pitch. Jovic was able to make Inter pay for the play and put the ball into the back of the net, giving Die Adler a 1-0 lead.
“We were never able to make the most of concrete chances when there was space. The opening goal made us more nervous than we needed to be considering the size of the deficit,” said Inter manager Luciano Spalletti, in his post-match news conference. “The start of the game was difficult and when we looked to recover, we did our jobs badly and we never had the right spacing between the different positions.”
Inter found its chances to equalize limited for most of the match. Ivan Perisic found Balde freed up on a run to goal, but Balde’s first touch of Perisic’s pass was off which allowed Frankfurt goalkeeper Kevin Trapp the ability to save the effort.
”We weren’t able to keep the ball high up the pitch and perhaps the selection of Keita was a bit rushed because he missed lots of games and it wasn’t easy for him to get back in rhythm,” Spalletti said.
Frankfurt nearly doubled its lead after the 30th minute when Sebastien Haller pushed the ball into the back of the net, but Inter was saved as Haller was called offsides.
Just before halftime, Frankfurt had another opportunity to add to its lead after Matias Vecino erred allowing Mijat Gacinovic to take a shot from inside the area. Inter goalkeeper Samir Handanovic was able to save the first attempt and maneuver the ball away from Haller before a put-back to be had.
Despite a formation change from Luciano Spalletti to add a midfielder in the center. Inter still had limited options on attack.
Haller nearly tallied his first goal of the series in the second half, but Handanovic was able to collect the shot.
Jovic almost earned a brace later in the half, but Andrea Ranocchia blocked the shot. On the rebound, Jovic made a second attempt, but Handanovic was there for the save.
Milan Skriniar had the best opportunity for Inter in the second half, but his shot from distance went wide of the net.
Now Inter will have to focus on getting back to the Champions League by finishing in the top four in Serie A.
”There are still a lot of games to go, we’re already thinking about the next one. We didn’t play as well as usual today but we need to move on with our heads up,” Handanovic said. “It’s a bit of an emergency at the moment, we didn’t have many players available for this game and some of them hadn’t played much recently, the opponents ran hard and put us in difficulty physically.”
They are currently in fourth, one point back of AC Milan – their opponents Sunday in the Derby della Madonnina. That match will kick off at 3:30 p.m. EDT March 17. Following a short international break, the Nerazzurri will return to action at home against Lazio at 2:30 p.m. March 31.
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