Inter is in a Champions League final. What a sentence. The Nerazzurri’s 2022/23 season has been one heck of a ride and it will end in Istanbul, something just about none of us expected back in August. Simone Inzaghi’s men glided past Milan 3-0 on aggregate with a happily uneventful 1-0 victory in the second leg, headlined by a Lautaro Martinez strike 74 minutes in. Not too much happened before that, and not too much happened after, which fit perfectly with Inter’s plans. And now, onto the final.
Simone Inzaghi kept everything the same from leg one, but Milan made three changes with Junior Messias, Malick Thiaw, and Rafael Leao into the starting eleven.
Milan came out of the gates much improved from leg 1 and came close to a breakthrough on a number of occasions in the opening stages. In the 5th minute, Theo Hernandez sent a long-range rocket whizzing over the bar with Andre Onana frozen. Brahim Diaz came even closer in the 11th minute, but his effort from the center of the box to the corner of the goal was snagged by an outstretched Onana. Inter began to insert itself into proceedings as the game wore on, but Milan had the next golden opportunity in the 38th minute after Rafael Leao spun Francesco Acerbi in the box only to pull his final effort just wide of the far post. Inter responded almost immediately, but Mike Maignan was on hand to paw an Edin Dzeko header off the line on a set piece. Inter’s otherwise solid half was marred late on by an injury to Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who was replaced by Marcelo Brozovic. Other than that, so far so good. Possession was slightly in Milan’s favor (55%-45%) but Inter had 7 shots to Milan’s 4. Each side managed just one on target, with quality chances at a premium.
The second half got off to quite a flat start and continued that way. There were just 2 shots total throughout the first 25 minutes of play, with little urgency from either side. Soon after the hour mark Inzaghi brought on Lukaku to freshen things up and the dividends paid off in the 74th minute. The Belgian linked up with Lautaro in the box and the latter buried the ball in the back of the net from the side of the box, beating Maignan at the near post.
LuLau with the dagger. pic.twitter.com/fsynbEohaK— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) May 16, 2023
Lautaro almost doubled his lead in the 79th minute with an attempted chip from the top of the box, but a leaping Maignan sent it out for a corner. Outside of one scrap after a rough Rade Krunic on Hakan Calhanoglu, not much happened and Inter eased to a 1-0 win on the night. Despite Milan’s desperate need for goals, it managed just 0.55 expected goals, 1 shot on target, and just a lone attempt the entire second half. Inter, on the other hand, tallied 15 shots, 4 on target, and an expected goals of 0.91. If it wasn’t clear enough after the first leg, now there was no doubt; Inter deserved a spot in the final.
Onana - 7.5: Eight shutouts in the Champions League this season - simply incredible. Only made one save tonight but it was a big one on Diaz’ golden chance early on, which could have led to a very different game if it went in.
Bastoni - 7: A flawless game from the Italian, who registered 3 duels won, 2 clearances, 7 accurate long balls, and the second most touches on Inter (55).
Acerbi - 6: Was lucky not to be punished after needlessly stomping Tomori’s foot in the box, but made up for that with 5 clearances, 1 blocked shot, and 6 duels won.
Darmian - 6.5: Rock solid defensively with 4 duels won, 4 clearances, and 1 interception, pretty much completely shutting down Leao.
Dimarco - 5.5: Struggled on the ball, leading Inter in giveaways with 17, totaling a 69% passing rate, and going 0 for 4 on crosses, although he did manage to win 5 duels and make 2 tackles.
Mkhitaryan - 6.5: Put in a solid showing before all of the minutes finally caught up to his legs. Managed 1 key pass, 1 accurate long ball, the 4th most touches on Inter, and won 4 duels before his early exit. Hopefully, it’s nothing serious.
Brozovic - 6: Came on earlier than he expected but didn’t do all that much in a little more than 45 minutes of action, tallying just 28 touches and 18 passes. Was far more active defensively, with 2 clearances and 3 interceptions.
Calhanoglu - 7: Another super showing against his old team. Led Inter in touches (66), accurate passes (41), notched 2 key passes, and won 9 duels.
Barella - 6: Not his best outing, managing just an 80% passing rate and 9 duels lost, but he still made a mark with 2 key passes and 2 accurate crosses.
Dumfries - 6: Wasn’t very active offensively, with 0 key passes and a 65% passing rate, but kept Theo Hernandez under lock and key defensively which eliminated a key part of Milan’s attack.
Dzeko - 6: Notched 5 duels won, 4 clearances, and 1 key pass, but tired out drastically after halftime.
Lautaro - 8 (Man of the Match): Iced the cake with a rocket of a finish, to go along with a busy evening featuring 2 key passes, 6 duels won, and a successful cross.
Inzaghi - 8: Has taken Inter to its first UCL final since 2013 and fairly comfortably, especially in the semifinals. Inzaghi’s rotation scheme is working and the introductions of Brozovic and Lukaku off the bench was a huge in-game boost.
Inter has until June 10th to prepare for the Champions League final against either Real Madrid (yikes) or Manchester City (yikes again). This team has been a constant surprise this season, however, so though Inter will be underdogs, I couldn’t be more excited for the final. For now, the focus returns to Serie A with a visit to Napoli Sunday as the Nerazzurri look for the four points it needs from the final three games to book a top-four spot next season. The following Wednesday then features the Coppa Italia final against Fiorentina.