While not its best showing of the season, Inter did enough to secure three very important points at home against RB Salzburg to keep them tied in first (at least point-wise) with Real Sociedad in Group D in the Champions League. Fielding one of the youngest sides in the UCL this season, RB Salzburg played with lots of energy and passion, but ultimately it was Inter Milan’s superior talent that won out. With an xG advantage of 2.31 to 0.51 and 55% ball possession, Inter was in control through most of the game with goals from Alexis Sanchez and Hakan Calhanoglu. It thought it had created breathing room in the 81st minute via a Lautaro goal. Unfortunately, Frattesi, who had the assist, was offside on the build-up.
Inter outshot RB Salzburg 17 to 11, but the guests had twice as many shots on target. However, outside of their goal, none of the other 5 Salzburg shots on target did much to challenge Sommer.
Inzaghi decided to rotate his lineup, giving De Vrij, Frattesi, Augusto, and Sanchez starts over the usual Acerbi, Barella, Dimarco, and Thuram. With a busy fixture list, this rotation made sense and it gave some of the new starters a chance to impress and earn more playing time.
RB Salzburg took early control of the first half with most of the possession remaining on the Inter half of the pitch. While there was a lot of movement and a few shots, none really threatened the Inter goal. Then in the 19th minute, against the run of play, Inter took the lead on a counterattack. Mkhitaryan crossed the ball into the box to Frattesi who had the slightest of touches in passing to Sanchez, allowing him to fire the ball into the back of the net. The Inter goal seemed to shake the visitors as they did not do much for the rest of the half. In fact, the best remaining chance of the half was a near own-goal by the Salzburg defense on a Dumfries cross in the 32nd minute.
The second half started much like the first with the visitors pushing forward but not having much to show for it. The first real opportunity of the half came from Inter in the 56th minute when a Dumfries cross was headed by Lautaro to Augusto who shot wide (to be fair, it was a difficult shot). One minute later, RB Salzburg equalized via a long ball, followed by two rapid passes and a clinical shot by Gloukh.
The action continued and then in the 61st minute Frattesi was taken down in the box by Gourna-Douath for a penalty. After a VAR review and a few minutes of protest, Çalhanoğlu fired a shot to the bottom right corner of Schlager to give Inter the 2 to 1 lead. In the 81st minute, Inter thought it doubled its advantage, but Frattesi was offside before passing to Lautaro, thus nullifying the Inter captain’s goal. For the rest of the match, Inter sat back, had the occasional counter-attack, and was able to hang on for the victory.
Sommer – 6.5: Most of his five saves were pretty straightforward and there wasn’t anything he could do on the Salzburg goal. He had an 80% pass success rate, including 5 of 12 long balls.
Bastoni – 6: A solid outing from Bastoni as he won three of his four duels and connected on 50% of his long balls. Also had one interception and one tackle.
DeVrij – 7: Was rock solid holding the back line not giving much to the Salzburg strikers. Connected on 57 of his 58 passes (98%!!) and only lost possession once in the match.
Pavard – 6.5: Was all over the right side both in defense and attack. Led the team with 88 touches and had six clearances, three interceptions, one blocked shot, and one tackle. Offensively, he had an 83% pass accuracy rate and connected on two of six long balls.
Augusto – 5.5: Overall a poor outing for Carlos Augusto as he lost possession a team high 21 times, had a 74% pass accuracy rate, was one for four on crosses and zero for two on long balls. He ran a lot but was not as effective as in other matches.
Mkhitaryan – 6: Did not have much impact on the game and a first-half yellow had him substituted at the break. In his 45 minutes, he connected on both of his long balls, won three out of five duels, and had an 89% pass accuracy rate. Should be well-rested to face Roma on Sunday. (46’ Barella – 6: Lost possession 10 times but ran a lot and won all of his duels (3), connected on his one long ball and one out of two crosses.)
Çalhanoğlu – 7.5 (Man of the Match): What else is there to say about Hakan? He continues to play at a world-class level. His penalty was perfect, had 85% passing accuracy, connected on four of six crosses and three of seven long balls. Defensively, he won five of seven duels, had one interception and four tackles. A field maestro! (76’ Asllani – 6.5: His apprenticeship with Hakan is clearly working and he seems very comfortable now on the pitch. 89% pass accuracy, two clearances, one blocked shot, and one tackle.)
Frattesi – 6: A mixed bag from Frattesi. While he was involved in both Inter goals (one assist and he was fouled in the box for the penalty), it was not his best night. Passing was dreadful (56% accuracy), won only seven of 15 duels, and was dribbled past four times. Needs to play better if Inter are to reach their season objectives as they will need his contributions.
Dumfries – 5.5: Not Denzel’s best night either, as he did not create much offensively and struggled a bit defensively. Offensively, only had a 77% pass accuracy rate and only attempted two crosses (50% success). Defensively, only won one of five duels and despite all the action on his side of the pitch only had one tackle. (65’ Darmian – 6: Was an improvement over Dumfries this evening, as he won both of his duels. Offensively, the stats do not show much but it was his pass that started the action where Lautaro scored but the goal was called back).
Sanchez – 7: He scored a nice goal and seemed to be everywhere on the pitch, racing back to defend when Inter lost possession and winning all his ground duels (plus one of four aerial duels). A very good showing, but it looks like he still has work to do on his chemistry with Lautaro. (65’ Thuram – 5.5: Had to keep reminding myself that he was on the pitch. Had a quiet 25+ minutes with only 15 touches and 78% pass accuracy.)
Lautaro – 6: Unfortunately, Frattesi was offside in the leadup to his goal, but it was a very active night for the team captain. Passing accuracy at 83% and he connected on both of his long balls. Defensively, he won six of nine duels and had one tackle. His work rate off the ball continues to be impressive. (85’ Klaassen – no rating)
Inzaghi — 5.5: I like that Inzaghi rotated the team, but quite frankly they did not seem all that motivated this evening. It is the manager’s job to ensure the team is mentally ready for a UCL match. On the positive side, he made the right substitutions to ensure the victory.
Next up for Inter is a match against Romelu Lukaku and Roma. With the 50k whistles the Curva Nord purchased, it should be a very loud, active atmosphere. I expect Inter to be fired up for this match.
In the Champions League, their next match is the return fixture with RB Salzburg. A win for Inter will secure them a spot in the round of 16 with two games to spare. Then again, we are talking about Pazza Inter, so can they really qualify for the next round without drama? We shall see. I expect they will face a hostile crowd in Austria...