The first half was rather uneventful, quite contrastingly to the rest of this season. In the four prior matches, Inter has scored and conceded a whopping 10 goals in the opening forty five. Even so, the Nerazzurri was the superior side, holding 60% of possession and outshooting Mönchengladbach 5-0. The cutting edge wasn’t there, though. Inter never found a clean look on goal thanks to lack of quality service from midfield and sloppiness in the final third when the ball did get there. On the bright side, it limited a potent Borussia attack to practically nothing.
The second half was another story, however. It took just four minutes for the good guys to break the deadlock, with none other than Lukaku finding the back of the net for his 5th in as many games.
Mönchengladbach responded well, though, and brought the game to Inter. That pressure paid off when Arturo Vidal clumsily took down Marcus Thuram in the box. The referee originally made no call, but a quick glance at the VAR monitor was enough for him to correctly awar a Mönchengladbach penalty. Samir Handanovic guessed correctly, but Ramy Bensebaini’s low, driven effort was unstoppable.
Borussia was boosted by the equalizer, and was very much back in the game. Inter, meanwhile, was subdued and out of ideas going forward. The three points were completely up for grabs and it was Inter who first came close to regaining the lead. In the 82nd minute a Matteo Darmian cross was volleyed off the post by Lautaro. A Mönchengladbach counter attack then rose out of the loose ball, which culminated in Handanovic clattering into Alassane Plea thirty yards out of his box. The Slovenian earned a yellow for his troubles, though Inter was lucky nothing more serious came out of the situation.
The luck did not last long at all, though, with Jonas Hofmann putting Mönchengladbach into a late lead in the 84th minute. He was played in behind the Inter defense, and calmly slotted home past Handanovic with a blue and black kit nowhere to be seen.
Inter threw numbers forward in search of an equalizer. A 89th minute Darmian header was barely tipped over the bar by Yann Sommer. The Borussia keeper was helpless on the resulting corner, however, and Lukaku notched his brace!
It had to be him! Romelu Lukaku makes it 2-2! pic.twitter.com/RLQGBeyoue— Champions League on CBS Sports (@UCLonCBSSports) October 21, 2020
Aleksandar Kolarov almost atoned for his previous mistakes with a 94th minute free kick that grazed the side netting, but alas, it was not meant to be.
Inter was in control of the game for 60-plus minutes, and yet still found itself needing a last gasp goal to rescue a result. With 58% possession and 17 shots compared to Mönchengladbach’s 6, anything less than three points is vastly disappointing no matter which way you look at it. While Inter does deserve credit for keeping Mönchengladbach’s shot count so low, it doesn’t allow us to live in comfort even when in such control as they were yesterday. The Nerazzurri remains without a shutout this season, while four of its five games have ended with multiple goals conceded. At this time last year, Conte’s side had kept three shutouts and conceded just two total in five outings. But this season’s problems may be deeper than just individual mistakes. These two snapshots are prior to Mönchengladbach’s second and Milan’s second over the weekend.
The huge gaps between the midfield and defense? Yeah, they aren’t supposed to be there. Inter’s midfield is bypassed much too easily on the counter, and the defense simply can’t cope with one-v-ones of that sort. Even world-class defenders would be in too deep, let alone the likes of Kolarov and D’Ambrosio. Whether the back three plays a higher line, or a midfielder is moved into a deeper position, something needs to change or else Inter will keep conceding the same goal week after week.
Handanovic - 5.5: Dove correctly on the penalty, but Bensebaini’s kick was too powerful for anyone to save. The second Borussia goal left a lot to be desired, however. Handanovic was easily bypassed by Hofmann’s low shot and didn’t react quick enough to close down his angle. Furthermore, out of the 16 shots Handanovic has faced, 8 have gone in. A 50% save rate is, uh, something to keep very far away from your résumé.
Kolarov - 6: This was probably his best game in a Nerazzurri kit, but the fact that Kolarov still only gets a six says something.
De Vrij - 6: It was his poor, unnecessary giveaway that sparked the situation leading up to Borussia’s penalty. Fortunately, he kept a low profile other than that which is always a good thing when it comes to center-backs.
D’Ambrosio - 6: D’Ambrosio too was a reliable presence in the back, though his yellow card was avoidable. He was a lot less exposed with Darmian in the lineup rather than Hakimi.
Perisic - 6: The Croatian once again flickered in and out of the match, and looks nowhere near the form he showed at Bayern. That’s not his fault, of course, as he was a winger in Germany. Still, it’s does make you think about what could be if Perisic adapts to the wingback role.
Barella - 6: The 23-year-old sure looked tired out there, but that didn’t stop him for putting in another solid performance. Interestingly, most of his touches came on the right flank, rather than in the center.
Eriksen - 7: The Dane looked confident in a rare start, trying his luck at a couple long range shots and getting on the ball often. Hopefully he gets more chances in the starting lineup, as he seems more comfortable influencing games from there rather than off the bench.
Vidal - 6.5: There’s no excuses for a player of his quality and experience to be committing the sort of tackle in the box that lead to the penalty. Other than that, though, he was one of the star performers. Vidal made a 90.9% passing accuracy and won 13 duels.
Darmian - 7: The 30-year-old was surprisingly good in his Inter debut. Darmian was an energetic force down the right flank on both sides of the ball and played a major role in Lukaku’s first. He looks to be a player of quality. A wingback pairing of him and Hakimi on could be the perfect balance when the Moroccan is healthy.
Sanchez - 5.5: The Chilean wasn’t the lively character we’re used to, but that may have been thanks to an abductor injury that forced him out at the interval. While he was on, he completed a team low of 11 passes and lost all but one of his nine duels. The international break seems to have taken a lot out of him, so maybe an extended rest period is just what the doctor ordered.
Lukaku - 8 (Man of the Match): The Belgian once again comes up big for Inter and picks up his second Man of the Match accolade in a row. He has now scored in his last eleven European matches, a club record.
Lautaro - 6.5: Lautaro came on at halftime for the injured Sanchez, and was an instant improvement. He came inches from giving Inter the lead late on, but his impressive volley excruciatingly struck the post.
Bastoni/Brozovic - NA:
Conte - 6: Only learned about Hakimi’s positive test hours before kickoff, so was forced into some late changes. The starting eleven was as much as could be asked for with the personnel available. His decision to take Eriksen off when the score was level at 1-1 was a head-scratcher, however.
Group B is wide open after Matchday 1. Shakhtar Donetsk’s 3-2 victory over Real Madrid puts the Ukrainians at the top of the table while Mönchengladbach and Inter are level in second. The next Matchday is just a week away, with Inter traveling to Donetsk and Mönchengladbach hosting Madrid. Until then, though, Inter must immediately turn its attention back to the league when it visits Genoa Saturday.