Antonio Conte had the luxury of a first-choice starting eleven from the back-three to Lukaku and Lautaro up front. The sole exception was still COVID-19 positive Brozovic in midfield, who was replaced by Gagliardini. Madrid, on the other hand, was dealing with the absences of Sergio Ramos, Karim Benzema, and Federico Valverde. In their space started Nacho, Mariano, and Odegaard.
In what’s jointly becoming an increasingly frequent and frustrating occurrence at the San Siro, it was the visitors who opened the scoring. Out of six home games so far, Inter has fallen behind first in five, including four 0-2 deficits. This time it was Madrid on the scoresheet almost straight from kickoff. Four minutes in Nicolo Barella clumsily went through the back of Nacho in the box as the Spanish center-back prepared to take a shot. Referee Anthony Taylor went right to the spot, and Eden Hazard tallied his first UCL goal in three years on the ensuing penalty.
Real controlled the overwhelming majority of possession in the early phases, while Lucas Vazquez was inches from doubling Madrid’s lead in the 13th minute, sending a low effort pinging off the post. Inter, on the other hand, was without a single shot until the 20th minute. The Nerazzurri did eventually start to grow into the game, but it all fell to pieces in the 33rd minute.
Arturo Vidal thought he deserved a penalty after an incident very similar to Madrid’s, but the referee waved play on (and correctly so, Varane made contact with the ball first, albeit only barely). Vidal, though, was not persuaded.
Madrid once again took complete control of the game after Vidal’s dismissal, though a now more defensively focused Inter kept the scoreline manageable. The first half was as one-sided as you’ll see this season. Both of Inter’s measly two shots came before the red and were well off-target. Madrid, meanwhile, tallied eight attempts (four on target) and held 60% of possession.
Down to ten men and down a goal against a team with the quality of Real Madrid, this match looked capable of producing a truly Pazza Inter moment and seeing the three points head to the Nerazzurri side. Alas, it was not meant to be. Inter did start the second period with intention but it was Madrid who scored the game’s all-important second goal in the 59th minute.
Hakimi’s own goal seemed to set the result in stone. The game eased to an uneventful ending with Madrid once more seeing the most of the ball but no one taking the initiative.
Two straight losses to Madrid have put Inter’s hopes of advancing on the ropes. Neither game had much in common, however. The first one was full of promise and quality play from Inter, though Conte’s side fell just short of the deserved result. Wednesday, meanwhile, was another and much darker story.
Real’s complete command for ninety minutes is obvious across the center of the pitch. Even at 35 and 30 years of age respectively, Luka Modric and Toni Kroos’ talent is unmistakable. Vidal’s premature exit obviously didn’t help Inter’s case, but the 30 minutes prior to that unfortunate event weren’t much different from the next 60. Los Blancos’ 63% possession may not have lead to chance after chance in attack, but it suffocated an Inter team lacking a Plan B to throw at Madrid. Even in the final third, an area that Inter seemed primed to cause problems in against a shorthanded Real backline, the visitor’s were able to live in comfort. Inter tallied a mere 5 shots and all but 1 was off target. Furthermore, 60% of the Nerazzurri’s attempts were from outside the box and it would take something special to cause a keeper of Thibaut Courtois’ standard to sweat.