It was a tall ask from the start to get a result from Liverpool from the time the draw was made. Absences of Nicolo Barella for a red card, Joaquin Correa though injury, and new addition Robin Gosens through injury as well made the task even steeper. However, Inter still went out and played well, only to have their work undone in the final 15 minutes by goals from Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino.
Given the absences we already knew of, Simone Inzaghi put out his strongest possible lineup. Arturo Vidal slotted in for Barella, Alessandro Bastoni made a surprise return from his ankle injury sustained against Roma a week ago, and Lautaro Martinez partnered Edin Dzeko up top again.
Jurgen Klopp handed a Champions League debut to young midfielder Harvey Elliott, who recently returned from a grisly ankle injury. Up top, Diogo Jota started over Roberto Firmino, flanked by Salah and Sadio Mane.
INTER (3-5-2): Handanovic; Skriniar, de Vrij, Bastoni; Dumfries, Vidal, Brozovic, Calhanoglu, Perisic; Dzeko, Lautaro.
LIVERPOOL (4-3-3): Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Konate, van Dijk, Robertson; Elliott, Fabinho, Thiago; Salah, Jota, Mane.
The first half was played at a high tempo on both sides. Inter and Liverpool pressed each other high, looking to pounce on any loose ball to spring an attack. Inter’s high press created a chance for Lautaro, who shot just wide of Alisson’s net early on. Liverpool answered with a half chance of their own, with Mane heading just over from a long free kick.
Inter’s best chance of the match came after 15 minutes, with a cross from Ivan Perisic finding the feet of Hakan Calhanoglu in the box, but his shot rattled off the crossbar from short range. A familiar sight for Inter in the Champions League over the past few seasons.
For the rest of the half, Inter and Liverpool exchanged set pieces, with neither team registering a shot on goal. A half with no shots on goal would normally indicate a boring half of football, but this half for Inter was very solid on both sides of the ball and both teams entertained for 45 minutes. Truthfully, Inter were unlucky to be behind, but could only blame their lack of finishing.
After a strong first half, Inter confidently strode into the second half and dominated early portions of the final 45 minutes. Like the first half, Inter could not find the final ball. For all their pressure, there was little in the way of a breakthrough, though Inter kept Liverpool pinned back for the first 15 minutes.
At the hour mark, Klopp showed the firepower that years of work on a project and millions upon millions of Premier League dollars can bring. The German manager made a triple sub that saw Mane, Elliott, and Fabinho make way for Luis Diaz, Naby Keita, and Jordan Henderson. World class players all over the place in that series of substitutions, something Inter simply cannot do with the bench they currently have for Inzaghi.
Inter managed a couple of chances after Liverpool’s subs. They also brought on Alexis Sanchez for Lautaro in hopes of finding an attacking spark. However, these efforts were all undone when substitute Roberto Firmino headed home a near post corner 15 minutes from the final whistle.
Minutes later, Perisic almost levelled the game with a long distance strike that sailed just over, but just after that chance, Salah scored from a scuffed clearance after a free kick. For anyone taking note, that was 2 shots on goal for Liverpool and 2 goals.
The match fizzled out after that, with both teams accepting the result. It was Liverpool who took the win and will be happiest with the result, but there are positives to be taken out of this performance for Inter, who are not yet on the level of a regular contender like Liverpool, but are making progress even after the setbacks of last summer.
Handanovic - 4.5: Two shots on goal, two goals conceded. That is unforgiveable at this level. Not much else to say because we know the situation around him. One of his last starts in the Champions League as Inter’s number one.
Bastoni - 5.5: Decent performance, but failed to impose himself on the left as he usually does in buildup. Some of that could still be in that ankle issue. Lost his man on the corner for the Firmino goal.
de Vrij - 6: Did well against Jota. Not much done wrong for him in this one.
Skriniar - 7: The best Inter defender on the night. Blocked shots, pressed well, and was all over Liverpool’s attack.
Perisic - 7.5 (MOTM): Best player on the pitch for either team. Ran circles around Trent Alexander-Arnold all night. Shame to not come out of this one with an assist.
Calhanoglu - 7: Thrived in this match, making dangerous runs with the ball on the counter and got stuck in on tackles when needed. A few inches lower on his shot and he would have had a goal.
Brozovic - 5.5: Not his best performance. The pressure of the Liverpool midfield got to him. Likely missed Barella partnering him.
Vidal - 6.5: Kept his antics to a minimum and really put in a shift. No complaints.
Dumfries - 6.5: Started from a deeper position on the right and really thrived in it. Helped him get his runs started and also helped him put in a great defensive performance on the right. One of his best matches of the season.
Dzeko - 5.5: Led the line well but got caught deep too many times when Inter were getting the ball into the box. Almost broke the Liverpool offside trap, but ultimately a quiet night.
Lautaro - 5.5: Looked like he may have been up for it early, but continued his massive dry spell. Just can’t put it together right now.
Alexis - 5: Did very little when he came on. Looked more like a midfielder than a striker with how deep he was coming. Zero opportunities created.
Darmian/Gagliardini/Ranocchia/Dimarco - N/A
Inzaghi - 6: Got his lineup and tactics spot on for what he was given, but was undone by the lack of depth on his bench and his strikers’ lack of finishing. It almost feels like we need him to come on and put on a shift up top at times.
Inter will need to shake off this defeat quickly and get ready to host Sassuolo on Sunday. The league is a top priority and a win this weekend would really ease the worries caused by dropping five points to Milan and Napoli in the past two weeks.