Manchester City vs Inter 1-0: Nerazzurri Leave with Heads Held High

The Champions League Final ended as most expected, with Manchester City finally clinching the European throne, but Inter did hold their own at the Ataturk Stadium in Istanbul.

The City’s boogeyman, that Erling Haaland who had scored 52 goals this season, was pretty much neutralized but it wasn’t enough as the Macunians found the only goal of the night with Rodri on 68 minutes.

Still, Inter had at least three clear chances to draw level before full time as Pep Guardiola’s had to defend their lead to the death until the very last second of added time. The Nerazzurri left the Ataturk Stadium with their heads held well high, and so did Italian football overall.

None of the three calcio representatives who made it to the European Finals managed to collect any trophy in the end. However, with a bit more luck, all three could have all pulled off a different outcome. That’s an encouraging sign for the football movement in the Belpaese.

For the final act of Inter’s thrilling European campaign, Simone Inzaghi chose Edin Dzeko instead of Romelu Lukaku to partner with Lautaro Martinez on the front line. For the rest, Inter’s lineup was deployed in its usual 3-5-2 fashion with no surprises.

Those who expected to see some fireworks or to witness an absolute mismatch were proved wrong. Manchester City accumulated much ball possession in the first half but their charges were well contained by the Nerazzurri defense, with Francesco Acerbi paying special attention to Haaland.

The Norwegian cyborg managed to shot on target only once in the first period but his challenge was defused by Andre Onana. It happened on 26 minutes as he partnered with his favorite provider Kevin De Bruyne, who served him a perfectly-timed pass as usual.

However, that turned out to be the Belgian’s first and only spark in the game as he was soon forced to abandon the pitch due to an injury. A pity, since the Champions League Final lost one of his most anticipated protagonists. Phil Foden replaced him.

All in all, Inter’s approach was confident and the Nerazzurri showed no fear. Still, they never managed to trouble Ederson until half time, failing to take advantage of the Brazilian goalie’s hesitations (the Man City custodian looked quite absent-minded in the first half…)

A disappointing first half, if truth be told, but not every game can be an Argentina vs France World Cup Final.

Simone Inzaghi tried to revamp his front line by replacing Dzeko with Lukaku on 55 minutes, but the big Belgian would end up having much to be forgiven for (More on that later)

The Nerazzurri went close to drawing first blood as Manuel Akanji almost gift-wrapped them a goal. The Swiss defender let a back pass slide past him, failing to notice that Ederson was not ready to catch the ball. Lautaro Martinez almost didn’t believe it and failed to make the best out of the chance, shooting right into Ederson rather than serving Lukaku at the far post.

However, soon enough Man City found the goal that put an end to their chase to the Champions League. On 67 minutes, Akanji redeemed himself from his previous blunder as he found the right spot to pick Bernardo Silva in the middle of the black-and-blue area.  The Portuguese crossed the ball almost from the end line, the Nerazzurri defense somehow managed to clear the ball away, but Rodri pounced on it and fired it past Onana with a brutal right-foot conclusion.

Inter could have equalized just three minutes later with Federico Dimarco, who lobbed the ball beyond Ederson from a Denzel Dumfries header pass, but the ball crashed into the crossbar. His subsequent tap in attempt incredibly hit Lukaku, who was standing right between him and the goal…

There were more changes for Inzaghi, as Robin Gosens replaced Alessandro Bastoni and Raoul Bellanova took Dumfries’ place. Then, Inter had to survive a sudden scare as Foden sneaked past two of their defenders with a magic trick. Luckily for Inzaghi and co, his shot was anything but impressive and Onana could easily block it.

Guardiola put in Kyle Walker for John Stones while Inzaghi played his last cards with Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Danilo D’Ambrosio.

The Citizens seemed happy with defending their slim lead, and so the latest stages of the games saw Inter conduct the operations – and rightly so, as they came close to making it 1-1 in at least two more occasions. With two minutes to go, Lukaku’s header from a brilliant Gosens’ service bounced right into Emerson. From point blank range, the Belgian managed to direct the ball right where the goalie was standing…

Then, just before referee Szymon Marciniak would blow for full time, the Brazilian custodian had to punch the ball away from a Gosens header. It ended with Manchester City lifting the trophy, but Inter deserve a big round of applause.

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