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Real Madrid 3-2 Inter Milan: Recap

Inter falls just short in Spain, slips into last place


Starting XIs

Madrid’s XI (4-3-3)
Inter’s XI (3-5-2)

First Half

Real Madrid peppered Inter’s goal with some early shots but it was Inter who came closet to an early opener. The Nerazzurri found itself 3v2 in Madrid’s box and the ball made its way to Ivan Perisic in the six-yard-box. The Croatian failed to drive home the dagger, however, and was forced to loft a cross to Nicolo Barella. The midfielder sent a header off the crossbar, the second game in a row in which he’s hit the woodwork.

That miss came back to haunt Inter in the 25th minute. An Achraf Hakimi mishap sent Karim Benzema through on goal and the veteran striker was never going to miss.

The hosts doubled its lead soon after and once again a defensive mistake proved costly, this time allowing Sergio Ramos a free header. That was the 34-year-old’s 100th goal in Los Blancos colors.

Inter responded right back in the 35th minute to stay in the game. An exquisite flick-on by Barella set up Lautaro Martinez. The Argentine broke a five-game goal drought with Inter’s first of the night.

That was the closing act of an end-to-end first half, only decided by Nerazzurri mistakes in the defensive third. Neither side was able to get a good grip on the game and that showed in the stats. Madrid had 55% possession, while it outshot Inter by just 6-4.

Second Half

Like the first period, no one took the game by the scruff of its neck following the interval. Inter, though, naturally pushed for a goal while Madrid sat further back, looking for opportunities on the counter. After a few half chances for both sides, the Nerazzurri found a breakthrough in the 68th-minute with Perisic scoring his second in as many games.

The momentum was all in Inter’s favor after the equalizer but it was Rodrygo and Real Madrid who would strike next on the counter.

Inter looked shell-shook after falling behind for the second time on the night. The visitors threw numbers forward in search of the game’s sixth but was out of both ideas and luck, consigning Inter to its first loss of the UCL campaign.

Real Madrid v FC Internazionale: Group B - UEFA Champions League Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

Once again it feels as though Inter didn’t walk away from the Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano with all it could have, or perhaps should. Unlike the previous two Champions League matches in which Inter dominated, this one was much more balanced. Both sides took 12 shots, while Madrid out-possesed Inter by just 56% to 44%. Furthermore, the action was scattered across the pitch, concentrated in no particular area. Forty-three percent came in the middle third, while the two ends of the pitch saw 29/28% each. The deciding factor in Madrid’s victory was a sharper cutting edge in the final third, while a very stacked bench also didn’t hurt. When Antonio Conte was bringing on the likes of Roberto Gagliardini and a rusty Alexis Sanchez, his Madrid counterpart could call upon the immensely talented Luka Modric and 19-year-old Rodrygo, a €45 million signing. Inter, meanwhile, made it too easy for Madrid to tally three, even as it was never put under much sustained pressure. On the other hand, following Lautaro’s equalizer the Nerazzurri had several threatening looks on goal and yet left the door open for Real to steal the three points.

Results are still not going the good guys’ way and in the last six games since the derby defeat to Milan, Inter has a paltry record of 1W-3T-1L. There’s no denying that Inter should have picked up at least a couple more wins if not for some unlucky bounces, but that excuse doesn’t hold much weight in the standings. Sooner rather than later Inter needs to start translating good performances into good results, or else it will be in danger of playing a treacherous game of catch-up.

Real Madrid v FC Internazionale: Group B - UEFA Champions League Photo by Diego Souto/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Player Ratings

Handanovic -6: The Slovenian made two quality stops on Hazard early on and Benzema late in the game. On the three goals, however, he was left out to dry.

Bastoni - 6: Made just 76% of his passes, though wasn’t at primary fault for any of the goals. A decent overall performance but he can do much better in all aspects of his game than he did Tuesday.

De Vrij - 5.5: Left Sergio Ramos wide open on a set-piece, which is almost always sure to result in a goal. Surprise, surprise, the center-back found the back of the net with a powerful header which is unlikely to have happened if de Vrij sticks with his man. On the plus side, he completed a respectable 37 of 41 passes but that mistake is a glaring one. De Vrij also won just one of four duels.

D’Ambrosio - 6: The veteran had a team-high pass percentage of 93% from 45 attempts but was generally quiet, which is usually a good thing when talking about center-backs.

Young - 6: Believe it or not, the Englishman looks to be the best left wing-back on Inter’s roster (in 2020, no less) even if tonight wasn’t his best. Just 79% successful passes isn’t stellar, though he was a presence in both halves of the pitch.

Vidal - 6: Not the Vidal we’ve seen in games past. He was completely out of position on Madrid’s game-winner as he let Rodrygo drift past him unencumbered, perhaps due to fatigue. He also won just one of eight duels and earned a yellow for his troubles. Anything less than a six feels harsh, however, as the midfield battle surely would have been much different without him there.

Brozovic - 6.5: Another class performance from the Croatian. The best Croatian midfielder on the pitch, might I add. He converted 62 of 72 passes (86%), and although he had no major impact, his behind the scenes work was vital.

Barella - 7 (Man of the Match): Despite finding himself as the target of a beating from Madrid which included the likes of a studs-up tackle to his ankle and a stomp on his elbow, Barella was excellent. A 72% passing accuracy doesn’t portray the effect he had on the game, including a beautiful flick on assist for Lautaro’s first-half goal.

Hakimi - 5.5: The Moroccan seemed to forget he wasn’t still a Madrid player when he gifted Benzema a lovely assist on the opener. He was quite subdued for the rest of the first half, and although his play noticeably turned around in the second, it wasn’t much to write home about either.

Lautaro - 7: The Argentine broke his recent duck with a goal and assist. It could have been more, as a rocket from just out of the box that grazed the crossbar. Hopefully, he regains his top form just in time international break. Oh well, better late than never I suppose.

Perisic - 6.5: The 31-year-old was invisible for much of the game but to his credit stepped up when it mattered the most. Even so, he looks out of position in seemingly every spot he plays in an Inter kit so a January exit wouldn’t surprise anyone.

Sanchez - NA:

Gagliardini - NA

Nainggolan - NA

Conte - 5.5: His starting eleven was all we could ask for, but the subs? Not so much. Conte had the likes of Eriksen and Nainggolan to call on to keep the pressure on Madrid after Inter’s equalizer but instead opted for Gagliardini. It was unfortunate that Real’s goal came immediately after the change, but the change handicapped Inter both mentally and on the pitch. Gagliardini is a much more defensive player and the type to protect a lead, not chase it or push for a winner.

Real Madrid v FC Internazionale: Group B - UEFA Champions League Photo by Diego Souto/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

The Nerazzurri have now fallen into last in Group B with just two points from three games. Borussia Monchengladbach’s 6-0 (!!!) win over Shakhtar Donetsk sent the Germans into first on five points, while Shakhtar and Madrid both have four. A win at home to Madrid after the international break is practically a must and could open the door for a run up the standings, though defeat would just about end Inter’s European hopes.