This hurts. There’s no way around it. Losing a final of this magnitude really sucks, for lack of better words. It wasn’t the blowout many non-Serie A followers expected, but if anything that made the events at Ataturk Olympic Stadium all the more painful. Just one bounce going a different way and the story being written could be oh so different. But finals are won by moments, and it was City that the football gods smiled down on today. Inter can hold their heads high for an incredible Champions League journey and the performance today - they even notched more expected goals than City for what that’s worth (absolutely nothing), but at the end of the day, losing sucks. Still, I’m just as proud as sad. Few expected Inter to get out of its group, let alone make it all the way to a Champions League final. And even then, a blowout City win was far too common of a prediction. But Inter can be proud of itself and what it showed to the footballing world today.
As someone who wasn’t around back in the 2010 treble season, this was the biggest Inter game I’ve ever been witness to and I wouldn’t change this team for anything. Thank you to this club, this coach, these players, this community, and all of you for making 11 guys kicking a football around an ocean away so special. Anyways, on to the recap now. And like always, FORZA INTER!
Simone Inzaghi rolled out the lineup he was expected to, with the only question mark at striker, where Romelu Lukaku was on the bench for Edin Dzeko. His Man City counterpart Pep Guardiola lined City up in its 3-2-4-1 formation led by Erling Haaland up front, with one change from the semis: Ake in for Walker.
The action began with nerves abound with both teams made a number of simple mistakes as they found their footing. Inter had an early scare in the 6th minute when Bernardo Silva found space in the corner of the box, but his effort whizzed by the far post. The Nerazzurri improved from there, however, and created a number of half-chances. City had the next clear-cut look on goal, though. Erling Haaland broke through Inter’s backline in the 27th minute but his effort was right at Andre Onana. That was the last major event of the half, as City continued to control possession, holding 62% of the ball, but lacking in the final third. Inter couldn’t take advantage of any of its counter-attacking opportunities either, and both teams ended the half with 4 shots a piece.
The second half continued in the same theme, but this time Inzaghi played his strongest card on the bench, bringing on Romele Lukaku ten minutes in. Inter almost got an immediate award through its other striker, as Lautaro picked up a loose Man City pass in the box, only for Ederson to close his angle down before he could make anything happen. That proved to be an unfortunately costly miss. Man City broke the deadlock in the 68th minute. A Silva cross found its way to the top of the box, where an unmarked Rodri blasted home.
Inter almost responded immediately through Federico Dimarco in the 71st minute. He sent a header off the crossbar with Ederson helpless, and directed the rebound goalwards, only for it to be blocked away by an unsuspecting Lukaku. Inzaghi made further attacking changes, introducing Gosens and Bellanova in place of Bastoni and Dimarco, but it also opened Inter up further defensively. Phil Foden almost took advantage, breaking through the Nerazzurri defense only for a full-stretch Onana to keep his attempt out in the 77th minute.
Inter pushed for an equalizer and came close in the 88th minute via a Lukaku header from the top of the six, but it was right at Ederson. The Nerazzurri continued to throw the kitchen sink at City, but it wasn’t enough. Ederson came up big again on the last play of the game, pawing away a Gosens header off a corner. And that was that. City 1, Inter 0. The Nerazzurri had their chances, tallying 1.81 expected goals vs City’s .94 and 14 shots vs 7, but a super showing from Ederson and one moment of distraction defensively cost Inter a 4th UCL.
Onana - 7: Couldn’t do anything on the goal and was otherwise stellar. A super showing from him in the entire UCL campaign.
Bastoni - 6.5: Was busy defensively, winning 4 duels, and notching 2 interceptions and 1 clearance.
Acerbi - 7: The pillar of Inter’s defense, winning 3 duels, making 4 clearances, and 2 interceptions.
Darmian - 6: Not his best evening, losing all but one of his six duels and being dribbled past twice, but he did manage 2 clearances, 1 key pass, and a 92% passing rate.
Dimarco - 5.5: Got burned defensively by Silva, being dribbled past 4 times and slightly at fault for the goal. Had more success going forward, where he notched 3 accurate crosses and 1 key pass.
Calhanoglu - 5: Picked a terrible day to have one of his worst performances of the season. Lost possession 11 times, including several costly giveaways, and totaled just 34 touches with a 77% passing rate. He didn’t make up for that in the final third, where he was equally absent, ending the day with 0 key passes and 2 cross attempts.
Brozovic - 7: Was in control of the midfield as captain, and led Inter in touches (75) and accurate passes (50). He also made 6 duels, entered 4 tackles, and 2 interceptions.
Barella - 6.5: Tried to play hero ball at times but was pretty busy on both sides of the ball, winning 3 duels, making a 92% passing rate, and 4 cross attempts.
Dumfries - 5.5: Let Inter down on various occasions with poor final-third decision-making and subsequent giveaways but was fairly solid defensively up against Grealish.
Dzeko - 5: Almost invisible in 60 minutes of action, registering just 13 touches, 0 shots, and losing the ball 7 times. He was starved of service and his lack of speed wasn’t suited to Inter’s counter-attacking.
Lautaro - 6: Didn’t get many opportunities in front of the net with 2 shots all night, but was important in the build-up, tallying 4 key passes.
Inzaghi - 7: Starting Dzeko over Lukaku isn’t quite a mistake (after all it got Inter to this point) but a full 90 of Lukaku sure could have been useful. Also wasn’t afraid to make a number of changes, all of which seemed sound, except the introduction of D’Ambrosio and taking off Bastoni. Those are just minor qualms though, and had luck been on his side he would have coached a victory.
That’s that for the 2022/23 campaign, which ends with 3rd place in the league, a Supercoppa, a Coppa Italia, and a run to the UCL final. Next up are two very welcome months of recovery from this crazy World Cup-interrupted season and then we go again.