Stop me if you’ve heard this before. Inter dominate a Champions League night only to see countless opportunities go begging. That’s been the story of the Nerazzurri’s European adventures in recent years, a trend that continued in the first half of Inter’s clash with Sheriff Tiraspol in a rare visit to Moldova. But this time, the halftime interval brought with it a clinical final forty-five. Goals from Marcelo Brozovic (who also chipped in an assist), Milan Skriniar, and Alexis Sanchez sealed a relatively comfortable three points for the good guy. A late Sheriff consolation goal put a blemish on Inter’s clean sheet but could do nothing to stop the Nerazzurri from completing the sweep over the Moldovan side.
Simone Inzaghi made five changes from the weekend, bringing Stefan de Vrij and Lautaro Martinez back into the lineup. Federico Dimarco and Matteo Darmian replaced the wingback pair from Udinese while Arturo Vidal was given the nod over Hakan Calhanoglu in midfield.
Inter dictated possession through the opening stages but took until midway through the first half to test Giorgos Athanasiadis’s (thanks, copy and paste!) goal. Lautaro had a pair of close-range efforts blocked in the 28th minute, including a header from underneath the crossbar that managed to go backward. Edin Dzeko then nodded a point-blank header wide from a tight angle before Lauataro struck the post from distance just short of the halftime whistle. The vibes were uncannily similar to Inter’s recent history in the Champions League of plenty of chances but few goals. By the time the referee closed the curtain on the first half, Inter had 13 shots (but just one on target) and 70% of the ball, while Sheriff had only a lone attempt to its name. The scoreline, however, read at 0-0.
Inzaghi went to his bench at the interval, bringing on Denzel Dumfries for the yellow-carded Matteo Darmian. Inter was soon awarded for its efforts in the 54th minute, with Brozovic slotting a clean finish past Athanasiadis and into the back of the net.
Barella fa la giocata decisiva! pic.twitter.com/BpWBpgNJkv— Alessandro (@90ordnasselA) November 3, 2021
Barella's dive though pic.twitter.com/OCoIGmmHVC— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) November 3, 2021
The Nerazzurri were far from content with a one-goal advantage and doubled its cushion on the Moldovan side just ten minutes later. A de Vrij header was pawed off the line by Athanasiadis only for Milan Skriniar to redirect the rebound back into the Greek netminder. Skriniar atoned for his miss on the proceeding rebound and buried Inter’s second of the night in the 66th minute.
TWO GOALS IN ELEVEN MINUTES FOR INTER pic.twitter.com/bhX2YttFGB— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) November 3, 2021
Sheriff failed to offer much of anything despite facing a looming second-consecutive UCL defeat and Alexis Sanchez iced the cake for the visitors in the 82nd minute mere moments after entering the action.
Tiraspol did manage to pull one back in stoppage time when an Adama Traore header flicked a set-piece into the far post netting. It was far too little, far too late, however, and Inter headed back to Italy with a 3-1 win in the bag.
Handanovic - 6: Had one shaky moment coming off his line in the first half but barely had anything to do otherwise. Traore’s header was unsavable as well.
Bastoni - 6: Not as much of a presence in possession as he’s used to being, making no successful long balls from just one attempt. Kept things clean in defense though, and ended the day with one clearance and one interception.
de Vrij - 6.5: A solid showing from the anchor of Inter’s backline. Had a 95% passing accuracy and won four duels.
Skriniar - 7: Putting the initial rebound straight into the goalkeeper caused unnecessary stress to everyone in black and blue but Inter’s rock-solid center back eventually got the job done to put the good guys up 2-0. Like the rest of the defensive unit, Skriniar wasn’t called into much defensive action but was always ready when pressed into duty.
Dimarco - 6.5: The Italian continues to show his reliability in his first season back at Inter from a pair of loan spells. Led the team in nine cross attempts, had one key pass, won three duels, and made two tackles.
Vidal - 7.5: Putting up a very good case to be a starter in the midfield. Was a constant physical presence, winning 8 duels, making 4 tackles, and one interception in the center of the park. Also had 3 key passes and 3 successful long balls.
Brozovic - 8 (Man of the Match): It’s past time to put a blank cheque on the table in front of the Croatian. His contract expires this summer and with interest from around Europe, it might take a substantial offer to keep hold of him. But he’s priceless for Inter and should be locked down for the long term at any cost. Brozovic won Man of the Match for the third time in four Champions League games, notching a goal and assist Wednesday. His stats sheet was equally as impressive, boasting 6 duels won, 7 accurate long balls from 8 attempts, the most touches on Inter, and a passing rate of 92%. Pay the man!!!
Barella - 7: Created the most comical moment of the match when he threw himself sprawling to the ground to get out of the way of Brozovic’s shot on the opener. Also won 7 duels and had 2 key passes in a very well-rounded performance.
Darmian - 5.5: Wasn’t stellar in his sole half of action but didn’t make any glaring errors either. He was middle of the pack in terms of touches on Inter but had a passing accuracy of just 78% passing, and lost possession the second-most times by halftime. The Italian’s yellow card didn’t help his case either, but the good news is he’ll be rested for Sunday.
Dzeko - 6.5: Sheriff’s bunker forced the Bosnian to frequently drop deep to find the ball, therefore limiting his final third impact. Had 3 accurate long balls but just one shot on target. He’ll need to find more success in the box against Milan but for this sort of game, Dzeko had a positive showing.
Lautaro - 6.5: His now eight-game open play goal drought continues. Lautaro should have had at least one tally in the first half if not for incredibly wayward finishing and misfortune, but his off-the-ball work (6 duels won and 2 tackles) was commendable. Also chipped in three key passes, but the goals need to start coming sooner rather than later.
Dumfries - 6.5: Drew a yellow from his opposing left-back moments after entering at halftime but failed to make much more of an impact beyond that. Had just 21 touches, though he was a constant physical presence, winning 3 duels, making one interception, and two tackles.
Inzaghi - 7: Got everything right. Good to see the Vidal-Brozovic-Barella trio showing promise, especially after the Chilean’s rocky 20/21 campaign. Inzaghi also aced the subs, though he fell just short of a clean sheet.
Inter’s big games keep coming with a “visit” to Milan on Sunday evening, followed by a two-week international break.