Antonio Conte had the luxury of a first-choice starting eleven from the back-three to Lukaku and Lautaro up front. The sole exception was still COVID-19 positive Brozovic in midfield, who was replaced by Gagliardini. Madrid, on the other hand, was dealing with the absences of Sergio Ramos, Karim Benzema, and Federico Valverde. In their space started Nacho, Mariano, and Odegaard.
In what’s jointly becoming an increasingly frequent and frustrating occurrence at the San Siro, it was the visitors who opened the scoring. Out of six home games so far, Inter has fallen behind first in five, including four 0-2 deficits. This time it was Madrid on the scoresheet almost straight from kickoff. Four minutes in Nicolo Barella clumsily went through the back of Nacho in the box as the Spanish center-back prepared to take a shot. Referee Anthony Taylor went right to the spot, and Eden Hazard tallied his first UCL goal in three years on the ensuing penalty.
Real controlled the overwhelming majority of possession in the early phases, while Lucas Vazquez was inches from doubling Madrid’s lead in the 13th minute, sending a low effort pinging off the post. Inter, on the other hand, was without a single shot until the 20th minute. The Nerazzurri did eventually start to grow into the game, but it all fell to pieces in the 33rd minute.
Arturo Vidal thought he deserved a penalty after an incident very similar to Madrid’s, but the referee waved play on (and correctly so, Varane made contact with the ball first, albeit only barely). Vidal, though, was not persuaded.
Arturo Vidal has been sent off against Real Madrid pic.twitter.com/t676nS4Klw— Champions League on CBS Sports (@UCLonCBSSports) November 25, 2020
Madrid once again took complete control of the game after Vidal’s dismissal, though a now more defensively focused Inter kept the scoreline manageable. The first half was as one-sided as you’ll see this season. Both of Inter’s measly two shots came before the red and were well off-target. Madrid, meanwhile, tallied eight attempts (four on target) and held 60% of possession.
Down to ten men and down a goal against a team with the quality of Real Madrid, this match looked capable of producing a truly Pazza Inter moment and seeing the three points head to the Nerazzurri side. Alas, it was not meant to be. Inter did start the second period with intention but it was Madrid who scored the game’s all-important second goal in the 59th minute.
Hakimi’s own goal seemed to set the result in stone. The game eased to an uneventful ending with Madrid once more seeing the most of the ball but no one taking the initiative.
Two straight losses to Madrid have put Inter’s hopes of advancing on the ropes. Neither game had much in common, however. The first one was full of promise and quality play from Inter, though Conte’s side fell just short of the deserved result. Wednesday, meanwhile, was another and much darker story.
Real’s complete command for ninety minutes is obvious across the center of the pitch. Even at 35 and 30 years of age respectively, Luka Modric and Toni Kroos’ talent is unmistakable. Vidal’s premature exit obviously didn’t help Inter’s case, but the 30 minutes prior to that unfortunate event weren’t much different from the next 60. Los Blancos’ 63% possession may not have lead to chance after chance in attack, but it suffocated an Inter team lacking a Plan B to throw at Madrid. Even in the final third, an area that Inter seemed primed to cause problems in against a shorthanded Real backline, the visitor’s were able to live in comfort. Inter tallied a mere 5 shots and all but 1 was off target. Furthermore, 60% of the Nerazzurri’s attempts were from outside the box and it would take something special to cause a keeper of Thibaut Courtois’ standard to sweat.
Handanovic - 6.5: The veteran netminder did all that could be asked of him but was left out to dry on Madrid’s goals. He completed all but one of his 31 passes and made four saves, none particularly challenging.
Bastoni - 6.5: The Italian was withdrawn at halftime likely in preparation for Saturday’s clash with Sassuolo. While on the field his 36 successful passes were a team-high, and landing 5/6 long balls to their target is also nothing to scoff at.
de Vrij - 6.5: Starting in the center of the back three, de Vrij was spared from dealing with the trickery of Hazard, Vinicius, and Vazquez. Still, he made 3 interceptions, 6 long balls, and 59 of his 65 passes.
Skriniar - 6.5: Even when the result doesn’t go Inter’s way, Skriniar is still a force at the back. He totaled the most touches on Inter (83), made 91% of his passes, and won 4 of 6 duels. It was by no means his best showing, not with two goals conceded, but he still looked just the part of the superb center-back we know he is.
Young - 6: It was a quiet but solid evening from the Englishman. He made 83% of his 52 passes along with two interceptions. Not bad, especially as there was very little on the attacking front from anyone in blue and black.
Vidal - 2:
In all seriousness, Vidal’s reaction that earned him a red card was completely unacceptable. Not only was the referee’s decision correct, but to chest bump Taylor, after he’d already picked up one yellow for dissent, was mind-boggling from a player of his experience and it let the team down.
Barella - 5.5: It was a clumsy, unnecessary foul that lead to Madrid’s penalty and game-winner. Though he improved over the course of the 90 minutes, it was all on the periphery. He made 89% of his 53 passes and finished with the third-highest touches total (71) on Inter. Even so, he didn’t cause Madrid much of an issue and his energy output seemed muted.
Gagliardini - 6.5: Gagliardini was one of the brighter (it’s all relative) spots on the San Siro pitch. His passing success wasn’t much to write home about (83%), but he won 5 duels and made 3 interceptions. And, of course, a slick new haircut caught the eye.
Hakimi - 5.5: The Moroccan’s recent downtick in form has continued with yet another disappointing showing against his old club. Offensively Hakmi showed very little, making just 83% of his passes and failing all 3 of his attempted dribbles. Meanwhile, he lost track of Rodrygo on Madrid’s second goal before eventually deflecting the Brazilian’s shot into the back of his own net.
Lautaro - 5: “Big Game” Lautaro was decidedly not very big game Wednesday. He took just 11 touches and made a meager 2 of 5 passes. To put it kindly he was invisible before exiting for Perisic at halftime, though perhaps the flipside is he’ll 100% for the weekend.
Lukaku - 5.5: The Belgian has gone from each extreme in his last two games. A masterclass against Torino was followed up with a grim midweek showing. His 33 touches were the lowest of any starter who lasted at least 45 minutes while he won just 1 of 7 duels.
Perisic - 6: The Croatian came on at half time in place of Lautaro and struggled to get into the game. He totaled 13 of 20 passes and did have two shots to his name but couldn’t do much to pull Inter back into the game.
D’Ambrosio - 6: D’Ambrosio was also a halftime change, in place of Bastoni. It was a good three quarters of an hour; he won 3 of 4 duels, made 2 tackles, and 86% of his passes. Even at 32 years of age, he’s an excellent back-up and veteran presence to have available.
Sensi - 6: He’s back! Sensi hasn’t seemed any closer to shaking the injury issues that plagued him last year but his first appearance since Inter’s visit to Lazio back on October 4th is a step in the right direction. It was a good cameo as well, with the Italian making all 11 of his passes. Hopefully it’s a sign of things to come...
Eriksen/Sanchez - NA
Conte: Though the Italian’s choices Wednesday night were all solid (though subbing in Eriksen in the 86th minute was a bit degrading), they’re some deeper concerns. Two of Conte’s prized summer signings, Vidal and Kolarov, have severely let Inter down in 20/21. Kolarov’s defensive errors are well-documented, but even more surprising is that Vidal, who was meant to bring in experience and quality, showed exactly the opposite in the biggest game of the young season versus Madrid.
Sacking him before next summer wouldn’t do any good, however. Inter would be forced to change systems and philosophy on the fly amidst a packed schedule which would only cause chaos and unpredictability when the Nerazzurri should be focusing on the pitch. But with a squad tailor-made to his requests, Conte needs to start finding consistency and results to repay the investment Suning has made.
Inter remains rooted to last place of Group B and its odds of survival are dwindling faster and faster. The Nerazzurri are on 2 points, while Shakhtar Donetsk has 4, Real Madrid 7, and Borussia Monchengladbach 8. Even beating the Monchengladbach and Shakhtar may not be enough for the Round of 16, though Inter are still in the mix for 3rd and the Europa League. But until next Tuesday when Inter visits Germany, attention returns to a pivotal visit to an unbeaten Sassuolo side Saturday.