Inter Keep Champions League Hopes Alive in 3-2 Borussia Thriller

There’s never a dull day at Inter and at the end of this one the Nerazzurri managed to keep their European hopes alive as they came out as winner of a 3-2 thriller with Borussia Monchengladbach on Tuesday night.

Inter had one and only possibility in Monchengladbach: They had to beat the German side to preserve their dim chances of advancing to the Champions League knockout stage. On the other hand, and following Real Madrid’s shocking 0-2 to Shakhtar earlier in the afternoon, failing to win would have put even the third place in Group B out of reach.

But thanks to another Romelu Lukaku brace following Matteo Darmian’s opener, they will be facing Shakhtar Donetsk next week with a concrete possibility of at least grabbing a Europa League spot. And perhaps, who knows, even progressing in the main European competition could still be a possibility. With Inter, you never know.

What Antonio Conte does know, for the time being, is that his side recovered well from last week’s disappointing home defeat to Real Madrid as they caught back-to-back wins against Sassuolo in Serie A and tonight against Group B first-placed Borussia – even if overcoming the Germans did not come without the usual amount of drama and suffering that every Inter supporter is familiar with.

Antonio Conte’s tactical move of the day was deploying Matteo Darmian as right wing-back instead of Achraf Hakimi. In midfield, Marcelo Brozovic recovered his starting spot after successfully battling with Covid and Romelu Lukaku re-joined Lautaro Martinez on the front line after watching the last Serie A match from the bench.

The Belgian made his presence felt since the initial stages of the battle. Fifteen minutes into the game, with Inter gradually increasing the pressure, he led his side’s first counterattack as he progressed on the right flank and reached Borussia’s area. He seemed overly frustrated as nobody was ready for his service but finally found Ashley Young, whose shot was deflected into corner.

Two minutes later, Inter’s pressure bore fruit as Matteo Darmian caught a Roberto Gagliardini pass and nutmegged Borussia goalkeeper Yann Sommer with a sharp finish to give the Nerazzurri the lead they desperately needed.

The Germans seemed shocked and couldn’t produce more than a Valentino Lazaro cross in the middle of the box that was easily defused by Samir Handanovic.

It was still Lukaku, on the other hand, to ignite another Inter fast break and serve Lautaro Martinez a golden chance but the Argentine wasted the opportunity twice, as he was first blocked by defender Stefan Lainer and then by the goalkeeper.

As the visitors caught their breath, Borussia started to wake up and Handanovic had to produce himself in back-to-back saves to preserve his side’s advantage. That was the prelude to their equalizer, which came in the first half’s added time when Alassane Pléa headed home a right-side cross from Lazaro.

Milan Skriniar failed to mark the French striker in the occasion but the whole Inter squad was to blame for how they lost their focus towards the end of the first period.

It took 15 more minutes for Inter to make themselves dangerous again as Lautaro finally managed to hit the goal target around the one-hour mark, but his beautiful right-foot curl ended its run crashing into Sommer’s left post.

But where Lautaro failed, Lukaku succeeded just one minute later. Roberto Gagliardini recovered the ball in midfield and served Marcelo Brozovic, whose filtering pass set Lukaku free to go in the box against two Borussia defenders. Denis Zakaria, who was sent in after the break by coach Marco Rose with the sole purpose of keeping the big Belgian at bay, was easily shouldered away by Lukaku with his strength. Next thing the Germans knew, they were trailing 1-2, courtesy of Lukaku’s deadly finish.

The Nerazzurri‘s lead increased eight minutes later as the Belgian hit-man wrapped his daily brace. This time, it was child’s play for Lukaku to make the best out of an Achraf Hakimi cross from the right. The Moroccan had set his foot on the pitch a few minutes earlier, together with Alexis Sanchez who also played a big part in Inter’s third as he initiated the Nerazzurri’s breakaway.

Still, Inter wouldn’t be Inter if they didn’t make their life complicated: Three more minutes, and Alassane Pléa was also bagging a brace and reducing his side’s gap as he finalized a counterattack prompted by a Sanchez’s mistake when attempting a midfield clearance.

The German side was alive, but their defending was dreadful. Borussia’s defensive line was caught once again unprepared as Inter’s next chance came immediately after. It took a desperate deflection on the part of Stefan Lainer to prevent Ashley Young from tapping the ball in from point-blank range.

If Monchenglasbach’s defending was dreadful, Inter’s mental attitude was even worse. On 84 minutes, they had conceded another chance to the home side and Alassane Pléa had wasted no time to pierce Handanovic again with an effective right-foot shot. Luckily for Inter, Breel Embolo was caught in offside position by the VAR after the goal was initially allowed.

The score wouldn’t change anymore despite six minutes of stoppage time, turning this Group B of the Champions League Group Stage into a very complicated affair. With one last round to go, all four teams still have chances to qualify.

The Nerazzurri will need to beat Shakhtar next week and hope that Monchengladbach beat Real Madrid – though a tie would qualify both the Germans and the Spanish. But – as we said many times – with Inter, you never know what’s going to happen.



December 1, 2020 – Champions League 2020-21 Group Stage

SCORERS: 17′ Darmian (I), 45’+1 Pléa (B), 64′ Lukaku (I), 73′ Lukaku (I), 75′ Pléa (B)

BORUSSIA MONCHENGLADBACH (4-2-3-1): Sommer; Lainer, Ginter, Jantschke (46′ Zakaria), Wendt (77′ Wolf); Kramer, Neuhaus; Lazaro, Stindl (70′ Embolo), Thuram; Pléa (Beyer, Grun, Hermann, Lang, Poulsen, Sippel, Traore) Coach: Rose
INTER (3-5-2): Handanovic; Skriniar, De Vrij, Bastoni; Darmian (59′ Hakimi), Barella, Brozovic, Gagliardini, Young (86′ Perisic); Lukaku, Lautaro (70′ Sanchez) (Radu, Stankovic, D’Ambrosio, Eriksen, Ranocchia, Sensi) Coach: Conte

REFEREE: Makkelie (Netherlands)
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Stindl, Lainer, Pléa (B), Lautaro, De Vrij, Barella, Young, Lukaku, Gagliardini, Bastoni (I); Extra Time: 1st Half 1′, 2nd Half 6′