Inter vs Milan 1-0: Nerazzurri Sail Past Sorrow Rivals

Inter sailed into their first Champions League final since 2010 following a 3-0 aggregate win over arch-rivals Milan. Lautaro Martinez’s second-half strike fired the Nerazzurri to a 1-0 victory in the return leg of this mouth-watering semi-final tie. 

Following last week’s 2-0 triumph as the designated away side, Simone Inzaghi’s men were in a pole position to reach the title decider. However, with Rafael Leao back from injury, Milan harbored slim hopes of turning the tie on its head and become only the second club in Champions League history to progress from a semi-final contest after losing the first leg as the nominal hosts by a multi-goal margin.

Leao, of all players, had the best chance to give Stefano Pioli’s team a first-half advantage. After winning a head-to-head battle against Matteo Darmian, the Portuguese winger breezed past Francesco Acerbi but failed to hit the target from point-blank late in the first half. Brahim Diaz had another glorious opportunity to pull one back for Milan earlier in the game. Yet, Andre Onana made a stunning save to deny his effort.

Inter looked seemingly content with preserving their first-leg lead in the opening 45 minutes. However, Edin Dzeko came close to putting the Nerazzurri in front as Mike Maignan came up huge to thwart his header following the resulting free-kick and ensure parity at the break. Considering the gap between the sides, there was a feeling Milan never took enough risk to get back into this tie. 

The big picture hardly changed in the second half. Despite making several substitutions in a desperate attempt to reduce the distance, Pioli had no idea how to turn things around in this match-up. Milan never gained a foothold in the middle of the park, with Inter controlling the tempo with quick passes without taking too much risk.

When it looked like the game would end scoreless, Martinez received a delightful ball from second-half substitute Romelu Lukaku and slotted it past Maignan to put the tie beyond doubt. Not only had the Argentine added to his impressive scoring record in the Derby della Madonnina, but it gave Inter a sailing cushion going into the match finale. 

And while the Nerazzurri extended their winning streak in all competitions to eight matches, Milan’s losing streak now stands at three. What’s even more concerning for Pioli is that his lads failed to get on the scoresheet in each of those three outings, casting further doubt on their faint hopes of pipping Lazio to a fourth-placed finish in Serie A.

With only three games left, last season’s champions trail a coveted fourth place by four points. By the look of things, they’re unlikely to secure Champions League football for the third season running. On the other hand, Inter wait to see the outcome of Wednesday’s encounter between Manchester City and Real Madrid with bated breath. 

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