After Inter’s disastrous past week featuring losses to Bayern and Milan, nine points out of nine from Torino, Plzeň, and Udinese was a must. And so far, so good. The Nerazzurri’s two-straight wins have been far from pretty, but it’s the result that matters. Thanks to a goal and an assist from Edin Dzeko Inter got that vital result Tuesday against Czech minnows Viktoria Plzeň and remain alive in the UCL Group of Death.
As usual, Simone Inzaghi made a number of changes to the eleven, most notably giving starts to Andre Onana, Robin Gosens, and Joaquin Correa, and a full debut for Francesco Acerbi.
As expected with an opponent like Plzen, Inter was on the front foot and dominating possession from the word go. The hosts opted for a more physical approach, picking up two yellows within 15 minutes. But it wouldn’t take long for the Czech side’s resistance to crumble, and Edin Dzeko opened the scoring with a smart finish to the bottom corner from the edge of the box at the 20-minute mark.
10 goals in 9 appearances. Edin Dzeko loves scoring against Viktoria Plzeň. pic.twitter.com/MH9Gk5bgOg— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) September 13, 2022
Inter’s intensity dropped off a bit after the goal but the Nerazzurri still managed to create a fair amount of chances and ended the half with 68% possession and 11 shots (5 on target). All that was missing was the second goal that would fully put the game to bed.
Inter came out of the break reinvigorated and forced Stanek into a number of saves in the first few minutes. Once again, though, finishing went begging with Denzel Dumfries the most culpable after sending a close-range header blazing over the bar. Proceedings took a turn in the 61st minute when Plzen midfielder Pavel Bucha was shown a straight red after a VAR review for a studs-up tackle into Barella’s shin that could have done serious damage. Luckily the Italian escaped injury and was on the pitch to watch Dumfries add a second and secure Inter’s lead 10 minutes later on the counterattack.
Both managers went to their benches after Inter’s second of the night, with the only real chance coming in the 90th minute with Plzen sending a header just wide of the near post. In the end, though, Inter’s clean sheet survived and it picked up a crucial three points.
Onana - 7: Just one save but that was all he needed to get the clean sheet - his first in Inter colors.
Bastoni - 7: One of Inter’s better performers before Inzaghi immediately yanked him after he picked up a yellow. Prior to that Bastoni had 3 key passes, 2 accurate crosses, and 4 successful long balls. Good to see him get back on track after some shaky showings of late.
Acerbi - 7.5: Surprisingly good after all the fuss that surrounded his signing. Acerbi’s route to Inter was more circuitous than would have been expected (Suning originally said no to his signing until shortly before the window closed) but he put in a stellar display on his full debut - albeit against Plzen. The 34-year-old led Inter in touches (127), had a 96% passing rate, completed 9 accurate long balls, made 5 clearances, and won 6 duels.
Skriniar - 7: A rock-solid showing from the Slovakian - 100% passing accuracy, 5 successful long balls, 3 duels won, 3 clearances, and 2 blocked shots.
Gosens - 6: A fairly uneventful 90 minutes from the German - 2 crosses, 4 accurate long balls, and 6/12 duels won.
Mkhitaryan - 6: Nothing to write home about for the Armenian - 0 key passes, 1 cross attempt, and 0 long balls, to go with an 87% passing accuracy - though he did tally 4 duels won and 2 interceptions.
Brozovic - 6.5: Still not at his best, but it’s getting better from Brozovic. Had a 95% passing rate, 2 key passes, 3 accurate long balls, and 8 duels won.
Barella - 6.5: Sort of like Inter in general today - had his moments but never impressed for very long. Despite totaling just 43 touches, Barella managed 3 key passes, 4 accurate long balls, and 3 duels won.
Dumfries - 7: Papered over a rather bumpy showing with the goal. They lost possession a team-high 18 times, went 0 for 7 on crosses, and missed some golden opportunities, but luckily they didn’t matter all that much in the end.
Dzeko - 8 (Man of the Match): Sure loves to play Plzen. The Bosnian has 10 goals in 9 all time appearances against the Czech club, including one goal and one assist this time around. Didn’t offer much else otherwise, but did what really mattered.
Correa - 6: The Argentine was a mere passenger to proceedings, notching just 33 touches, 1 shot, and 1 key pass.
Inzaghi - 7: Got the rotations in the starting lineup right but his subs continue to bewilder - Gagliardini ten minutes before Asllani and Bastoni off after being one of Inter’s best players were the most confusing.
Inter stays within touching distance of the top of Group C with this result before a home clash with Barcelona to kick off October after the international break. Up next, though, comes an early game at Udinese this Sunday - always a dreaded prospect, especially after a midweek trip to the Czech Republic.