It wasn’t always pretty, and it definitely wasn’t easy, but in the end Inter came out on top in the Europa League round of 16 clash against Getafe. Some teams are physical, and then there’s Getafe. The azulones committed 18 fouls throughout the match, although that’s nothing special. Getafe’s average number of offenses per game is 18.5. Anthony Taylor, however, somehow only saw fit to dish out one yellow card. Hopefully, no Inter player picked up any more than a bruise or dozen, but a two legged tie would have been another story.
Getafe ran circles around Inter from the starting whistle. A powerful Nemanja Maksimović header was barely saved off the line by Samir Handanovic in the 2nd minute. Plenty more shots rang in at the Inter goal and the ball seemingly refused to leave the Nerazzurri half. There was an end in sight, though.
Inter adapted into the game by the 25th minute, and two Lautaro Martínez shots forced saves from Getafe’s net minder, David Soria. The Spaniard was helpless on Lukaku’s 30th goal in all competitions minutes later. A superb ball over the top from Alessandro Bastoni was settled by the Belgian, and he bodied his way all the way into the box. Then, the Belgian struck an immaculate effort into the lower corner of the far post.
That set the tone for the rest of the half, in which Inter was clearly the better team and in control. The complete opposite of the first twenty minutes, where Inter was overrun by an energetic Getafe. An interesting stat paints the picture perfectly: Getafe had no shots since the 22nd minute, while all of Inter’s came after the 25th.
The flow of play was much calmer after the restart. Inter controlled possession, but Getafe’s backline proved impenetrable except for an acrobatic effort from Danilo D’Ambrosio. Who needs Messi?
Inter’s tired legs started to show by the hour-mark, however. In the 66th minute, a leaping Handanovic tipped Jaime Mata’s header over the crossbar by mere inches. Getafe continued to find space in the final third, and earned a penalty thanks to VAR in the 74th minute. A cross bounced off the raised arm of the jumping, off balance Diego Godín. Anthony Taylor needed Video Review to make the call, but it was a penalty nonetheless. The Uruguayan was off the hook when Jorge Molina missed the ensuing spot kick wide of the goal.
The Molina blunder took the wind out of Getafe’s sails, and Inter came closer and closer to a second. In the 79th minute, Lukaku connected poorly with an excellent Nicolo Barella pass at the top of the six-yard-box, and sent the point blank effort spinning wide. Then, in the 83rd minute Christian Eriksen finished the job. Moments after entering the match, a weak clearance fell to the Dane in the box, and he powered home from close range.
Another sub, Alexis Sánchez, found himself one-on-one with Soria, but sent a chip shot miserably bouncing wide. Fortunately, that miss had no bearing on the end result, a 2-0 Inter win.
The first half may have been quite nerve-wracking for Inter faithful (in fact,I can attest that it was), but the second half was a tad calmer, at least by Inter standards. Antonio Conte’s side largely controlled the match except for a late Getafe surge and that ended prematurely thanks to Molina’s miss.
Still, the heat map represented both halves very well.
Inter found itself in its own half more often than not, but with the ball rather than without. That didn’t mean the backline was on the fringe of the action, however. Despite having 17 total shots, Getafe was only afforded 2 on target. Inter also extended its shutout streak to five. Bastoni had a fantastic game on both sides of the ball, striking a lovely pass leading up to each goal, and blocking a close range Getafe shot early on. Godín too was solid except for the penalty, while Stefan de Vrij was his usual top class self.
Getafe, on the other hand, attacked through the wings, and spent less time in midfield. The Spanish side fielded three defensive midfielders, so perhaps that had something to do with it.
Inter’s Europa League campaign remains alive, with a quarter-final against either Bayer Leverkusen or Rangers coming up on Monday. Rangers would be the preferred opponent, but Leverkusen is almost certain to hold onto its 3-1 aggregate lead in Thursday’s leg two. Forza Inter!