Unwatchable for approximately 75 minutes, Inter found a way to bring a point home in their first Champions League outing of the season. After a start to the season where Inter scored 13 goals in four games, they found it difficult to generate any momentum against a Real Sociedad squad that troubled Inter throughout the match with their high press. Early in the second half, Sommer made two outstanding saves to keep Inter in the game. As the match wore on, Inter’s substitutes were able to finally put pressure on the Txuri-Urdinak (white and blues), resulting in an 87’ equalizer by the Inter captain.
With Benfica’s surprise home loss to RB Salzburg, after the first round, Inter is tied in second with Real Sociedad, trailing the Austrians by two points. Inter will host Benfica on matchday two on October 3.
Simone Inzaghi made five changes from the side that thrashed AC Milan on Saturday. In defense, De Vrij replaced Acerbi, and Pavard made his Inter debut replacing Darmian. In midfield, Carlos Augusto replaced Dimarco, and Asllani filled in for the injured Çalhanoğlu. I suspect that Cuadrado would have started instead of Dumfries had he been available. Finally, in the attack, Arnautovic got his first start of the season, replacing the red-hot Thuram. Based on how the game unfolded, there may be lots of questioning Inzaghi’s lineup decisions for this match.
The game could not have started worse for Inter as they were on the back foot from the kickoff. In the third minute, Sommer made his first save on a header from about 8 yards out, and then Real Sociedad hit the post. It only took one more minute for Real Sociedad to take the lead as Bastoni was careless and lost the ball to Mendez, who easily slotted it past Sommer from a central position. After four minutes, it was Real Sociedad 1 - 0 Inter Milan.
The rest of the first half continued to be dominated by Real Sociedad, who had eight shots to Inter’s one (the sole inter shot was a header by Arnautovic well over the bar from about 12 yards out in the 18th minute). While Inter held the edge in possession at the break (52% to 48%), it did not feel that way as it seemed most of Inter’s play was back passes did Sommer have the most touches of any Inter player in the first half?). Inter ended the half with 1 shot (0 on target), 14% cross accuracy, 33% dribbling accuracy, and an xG of 0.02!
If you were expecting a fired-up Inter after the interval, you would have been disappointed as the second half continued just as the first half ended. Sommer, Inter’s man of the match, made two crucial saves to keep the Neroazzuri in the game. The first was on a free kick in the 47th minute, as the shot went around the wall and was heading for the near post, but Sommer was able to push it out for a corner. On the ensuing corner, he saved a shot from point-blank range from Oyarzabal.
In the 55th minute, Inzaghi went to his bench in an attempt to shake up the team. Thuram came in for the ineffective Arnautovic, Frattesi came in for the cautioned Asllani, and Dimarco came in for Bastoni. While the substitutes, especially Thuram, brought some much-needed energy, not much changed until the 65th minute when Barella was shown a straight red for what appeared to be a stomp on an opposing player. However, VAR intervened, and the red card was rescinded as it was clear that Barella was trying to get his foot out of the intertwined legs of Munoz.
In the 69th minute, a Real Sociadad header hit the top of the crossbar, and it continued to look like Inter would suffer their first defeat of the campaign. Whether it was Real Sociedad fatigue or the Inter substitutes getting more involved in the game, Inter finally started to create chances around the 75th minute. First, Frattesi played a great pass to Thuram, who instead of shooting from the right side of the box, tried to stop to better his angle and slipped.
Then in the 79th minute, Inter thought it had the equalizer as Thuram scored on an assist from Augusto. But Lautaro was slightly offside in the build-up play before he passed the ball to Augusto.
Finally, in the 87th minute, Inter’s late pressing paid off, and the team got the equalizer. With some confusion in the box, the ball went to the edge of the area and Frattesi fired in it (not sure if it was a shot or cross). Lautaro ran to it and launched it into the back of the net.
Lautaro Martínez comes up clutch! ⚔️ pic.twitter.com/DUlboAYoLB— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) September 20, 2023
Sommer - 7 (Man of the Match): Made several big saves that kept Inter in the game. Could not do anything about the goal caused by the Bastoni turnover. Also had 44 passes with an 82% accuracy rate.
Bastoni - 4: A very poor outing from Bastoni, who has had a great start to the season. His error was the cause of the conceded goal, lost possession 13 times, had only 78% passing accuracy, and no tackles or interceptions. (Dimarco - 6: Came on in the 55th minute, first playing as the left center back and then switching positions with Carlos Augusto. Connected on 5 of 7 long balls and had an 86% passing accuracy rate).
De Vrij - 6: Was pretty solid in the back with 6 clearances, 2 blocked shots, 2 tackles, and 93% passing accuracy. (Acerbi - 6.5: Came on in the 76th minute and played very well. Won all 4 of his duals and had 1 clearance and 1 interception.)
Pavard - 6.5: Had a solid debut with some key tackles. Ended the night with 6 clearances, 2 interceptions, 3 tackles, and won 11 of his 12 duels. Seemed calm all night. Led the team with 79 touches.
Carlos Augusto - 5.5: Showed his speed throughout the 90 minutes but struggled with his passing, connecting on just one cross and one long ball. Defensively, he had 1 clearance, 1 interception and 3 tackles.
Mkhitaryan - 5.5: Seemed absent for large portions of the match. Did have an 86% pass accuracy rate, but no shots on his 37 touches. (Sanchez - 6: Came on in the 69th minute as Inter searched for the equalizer. Alexis was very active with 26 touches and 2 key passes in his 20+ minutes on the pitch.)
Asllani - 5.5: Tried to put his mark on the match but struggled at times. He had an 89% pass accuracy rate but no key passes and connected on just 1 of 4 long balls. Defensively, he had 1 tackle. (Frattesi - 6.5: Came on in the 55th minute and kept pushing forward. Got the assist on Lautaro’s goal.)
Barella - 5: An off night for Nicolo, as he lost possession 12 times and only won 5 of his 10 duels. Pass accuracy was below par at 78%.
Dumfries - 4.5: While Dumfries has had a great start to the season, this was not his night. He lost possession 15 times, connected on only 1 of 4 crosses, and had a low 71% pass accuracy.
Lautaro - 6: While Lautaro scored the only Inter goal, he struggled all night with Real Sociedad’s tight marking and lost too many balls (9 on just 26 touches). Passing accuracy was only 73%. But, he did get the equalizer!
Arnautovic - 4: A terrible start for Marko, who was both ineffective and transparent. He had only 17 touches and lost possession 9 times. Had 56% passing accuracy and only won 2 of his 7 duels. Was sluggish, out of synch with Lautaro, and clearly inferior to what Thuram brings to the team. (Thuram - 6.5: Came on in the 55th minute and brought much-needed energy to the side. Scored a goal, but offside in the build-up negated it. While only having 11 touches, he was very active off the ball.)
Inzaghi - 5.5: Inzaghi got his starting lineup wrong and could not change the tone of the game at half-time. However, he deserves credit for bringing in the right substitutions and not waiting more than 10 minutes after the break to do so.
I don’t know if it was the orange kit (maybe orange is not Inter’s color?), but Inter did not look like a top-10 European team this evening. While Real Sociedad is not easy to beat at home, the team lacked energy. In the Serie A campaign, they look confident and hungry. Were they overconfident about this match, thinking they could easily get through the group stage?
Hopefully, this is a UCL wake-up call for the squad, as they can make a deep run in the tournament. Their next UCL matches are at home against Benfica and then RB Salzburg. These are must-win games if the team wants to finish on top of their group.