MILAN - It was always going to be difficult, and it turned out to be exactly that. Slavia Prague, reigning champions of the Czech Republic and a team boasting five Czech national players, are in a truly exciting vein of form right now. All of the build-up and tactical preparation had paved the way for a great match at San Siro, but for the first time this season Antonio Conte’s side struggled to give the performance they wanted. Barella’s goal in the closing minutes, his first in an Inter shirt, gifted the Nerazzurri a point that could yet prove precious in the path ahead of this European competition.
A tough game in which Inter fought with energy and desire: the guests had slightly more possession of the ball in the first half, while the Nerazzurri dominated possession more in the second half despite being 1-0 down. Inter were not at their most accurate with 77% of passes completed and only five of their 16 shots on target. It wasn’t all negative however, as Inter won more duels than Slavia (68 compared to 49), and caused real problems for the guests in the closing stages. Too late for a win, but just in time to salvage a draw through Nicolò Barella’s first goal for the Nerazzurri on his Champions League debut.
The flexibility of Slavia Prague's players translated into a fluidity of their system deployed at San Siro: an ever-changing 4-2-3-1 depending on the period of play, with players regularly switching positions and giving few points of reference to go by. Barella's entry to the game however really added an organisation to Inter's play. He completed 92.3% of his attempted passes, the best from any Inter player on an evening where workaholic and pass master Brozovic struggled to hit his usual figures (42 passes, 78% successful). Not a lot of joy for the forwards, despite the fact that Lautaro just missed twice and Politano came close with a surprise effort. D'Ambrosio, with his usual positivity, fought to make himself dangerous both in the air and from outside the box (three shots at goal).
Sensi proved to be a threat even from set pieces: not only did he hit the crossbar in the build-up to Barella’s goal, but there were also several free kicks which he placed superbly onto our defenders’ heads giving chances to score (De Vrij and D'Ambrosio). Sensi was once again a key player in this match, just as he has been in all of the Nerazzurri’s games so far.
It was a slightly bitter draw, but five matches remain in the group stages and there are positives can be taken from the push in the final minutes. But now it's time to focus on one thing only: the #MilanDerby on Saturday. Forza Inter!