Lukaku Salvages Champions League Draw for Inter

Inter could only muster a 2-2 draw as they welcomed the challenge of Borussia Monchengladbach at the San Siro for their Champions League season opener.

Antonio Conte would have wanted to put Inter’s defensive issues in Serie A behind him in the elite European club competition. However, his best-laid plans came to nothing as the Nerazzurri managed to salvage a draw after going down 1-2 in the final moments of the game.

Going into the game, both Inter and Monchengladbach had similar domestic returns against their names. Given their attacking superiority, the Italians must have fancied their chances, but their overload in the attack was their downfall as Conte only had Stefan de Vrij as a recognized central defender.

There was not much action in the first half. The Foals were pegged into their own half as Inter camped around their area with nothing to show for. Fans would have come to expect Romelu Lukaku to score in every game, and the towering forward got chances to get on the scoreboard. The Belgian was kept in check the whole of the first half but came closest to hit the back of the net.

However, Lukaku had his customary goal four minutes into the second half. Ivan Perisic sent in a cross, which was cleared only for the ball to find its way to Arturo Vidal. The Chilean sent a dangerous ball into the area, which was met by Lautaro Martinez. The Argentine sent a looping ball into the far corner, which was kept inside by the advancing Danilo D’Ambrosio. Matteo Darmian’s first-time effort was blocked, but the loose ball fell to Lukaku, who was never going to miss from the six-yard box.

Inter dominance on the ball and the proceedings did not stop, and they pegged Borussia Monchengladbach in their own half. But it was the Bundesliga side who would claw their way back into the fixture. Vidal, the architect of Inter’s goal, brought down Marcus Thuram in the box for a Moenchengladbach penalty. Ramy Bensebaini would step up to the spot and equalize despite Samir Handanovic picking the right direction.

Conte’s men tried to make something out of their possession, but it was the visitors who trouble the scorers again. Florian Neuhaus dissected the Inter defense with an inch-perfect pass that sent Jonas Hofmann through on goal. Vidal was supposed to be keeping Hofmann under check but was unable to keep up with his pace. The recently capped Germany international sent the ball through Handanovic’s legs to give his side the lead.

The Nerazzurri were down a goal with two minutes remaining of regulation time. There would be six minutes allowed for stoppages, but Inter would not require them to get on level terms.  Aleksandar Kolarov was in the thick of things as he crossed from the left flank and found Darmian. The Parma loanee would earn a corner after his header was expertly turned behind by Yann Sommer.

Kolarov was tasked to swing in the resulting corner, and the Serbian delivered the goods. His cross found Alessandro Bastoni on the near post, and the young defender flicked it on to the far post. Lukaku had freed himself from the attention of Monchengladbach defenders and tapped the ball home.

By the time the ball was taken out of the net, 90 minutes had just been completed. The added time would not change the fate of the game, and the final score read 2-2. There were plenty of chances for both sides, but neither managed to get that decisive goal.

Marco Rose would be pleased with the point gained against the free-scoring Inter. Antonio Conte, not so much. The pressure builds on him to deliver as the Nerazzurri’s sluggish start to the 2020-21 Serie A season makes its way to their Champions League campaign. With Real Madrid losing to Shakhtar Donetsk, a win at the San Siro would have been a perfect start for their European adventures.