MILAN – Tonight the Nerazzurri tasted victory in the Champions league. Inter beat Borussia Dortmund 2-0 at San Siro thanks to goals from Lautaro Martinez and Antonio Candreva. Antonio Conte’s side played excellently: they were dangerous, knew how and when to weather the Dortmund attacks, were rarely caught out defensively and were able to decisively penetrate the Dortmund defence. They were deservedly rewarded with a precious victory and three points in the Champions League.
The first half was not the one everybody had been expecting. For a start, Dortmund decided to alter their formation: they opted not to use their standard 4-2-3-1 and instead lined up in a more pragmatic 3-4-3 that became a 5-4-1 in the defensive phase. The away team congested the centre of the pitch with the intention of reducing the space and time for the Nerazzurri midfield creators. This compact style of play dominated the first quarter of the game, during which neither team had a shot on goal. Nonetheless Inter continued to try and find space in the centre of the pitch, despite the German side’s best efforts to clog up any attacks.
The Nerazzurri began to probe the Dortmund defence. In the 19th minute, Candreva cut back inside and crossed for Lautaro, who just couldn’t stretch far enough to hook it in. It was a warning sign of what Inter were capable of. Then in the 22nd minute, De Vrij, just as he did against Sassuolo, provided the assist for a goal. A clever pass over the top of the Dortmund defence put Lautaro clean through and the Argentine controlled the ball on his chest before slotting past Burki. There was a nervous moment while VAR checked for a potential offside, however ultimately referee Anthony Taylor signaled that the goal would stand.
Nevertheless, the goal did not throw the match plans out the window for either team, rather the same patterns of play and individual duels continued after play restarted. Dortmund played with a fluid attack who regularly swapped positions, making it difficult for the alert Nerazzurri defence to keep track of them. And only a few minutes later the Schwarzgelben had a chance to equalise. In a pattern of play that seemed to mirror Berardi’s goal at the weekend, Sancho found himself one on one with Handanovic, who brilliantly saved the winger’s right-footed shot from close range. The Nerazzurri keeper’s heroics ensured that the Nerazzurri went down the tunnel at half-time still 1-0 up.
In the second half, the guests came out with a different approach: they played higher up the pitch and were more aggressive, leading to more space opening up. And the match livened up too as Dortmund looked to attack. Hakimi also pushed up and was continually involved in Dortmund’s attacking play, making a big contribution with his crosses. In the 64th minute, Handanovic readjusted quickly to keep out a Brandt strike that had taken a slight deflection off De Vrij. A sign of things to come? Partly. But Inter stuck together, and in Lautaro the Nerazzurri had a player who was a constant threat to Dortmund’s defence. From the 62nd minute, the Argentine striker had Sebastiano Esposito as his strike partner, the 17-year-old Italian having come on in Lukaku’s place to make his second appearance in the Nerazzurri shirt and his first in the Champions League. And the youngster was not overawed by the occasion as he demonstrated that he was a real danger to the Germans’ backline. In the 75th minute, an almighty scramble in the Inter box eventually ended with Candreva booting the ball clear.
The performance Inter were putting in still needed to have the perfect end. And the Nerazzurri had a great chance to double the lead in the 83rd minute as Esposito was brought down in the box by Hummels. However, Burki managed to deny Lautaro from the spot. It was a big blow and could have been disastrous. But Borussia weren’t able to find the energy and composure to really hurt Inter. And with 89 minutes on the clock, Conte’s men sealed it: Brozovic sent Candreva through on the break and the Nerazzurri wideman beat Burki with a superb finish.
A richly deserved victory for Inter, who now sit on four points in Group F alongside Borussia Dortmund. The two sides currently find themselves behind Barcelona, the Spanish side having beaten Slavia 2-1 in Prague this evening. This was an important win that will provide Inter with all the enthusiasm they need ahead of their upcoming games, starting with Parma at 18:00 CEST on Saturday. A fantastic evening at the Meazza, #ForzaInter forever!
INTER 2-0 BORUSSIA DORTMUND
INTER (3-5-2): 1 Handanovic; 2 Godin, 6 De Vrij, 37 Skriniar; 87 Candreva, 5 Gagliardini, 77 Brozovic, 23 Barella, 18 Asamoah (34 Biraghi 80'); 10 Lautaro Martinez (20 Borja Valero 90'), 9 Lukaku (62' Esposito).
Substitutes: 27 Padelli, 95 Bastoni, 19 Lazaro, 16 Politano.
Coach: Antonio Conte.
BORUSSIA DORTMUND (3-4-3): 1 Bürki; 15 Hummels, 33 Weigl, 16 Akanji (34 Larsen 74'); 5 Hakimi, 28 Witsel, 6 Delaney (8 Dahoud 66'), 14 Schulz; 7 Sancho, 19 Brandt, 23 Hazard (13 Guerreiro 84').
Substitutes: 35 Hitz, 2 Zagadou, 10 Götze, 26 Piszczek.
Coach: Lucien Favre.
Goalscorers: 22' Lautaro Martinez (I), 89’ Candreva (I)
Bookings: Brozovic (I), Barella (I), Godin (I), Weigl (B), Hummels (B), Candreva (I)
Added time: 1' - 3'
Note: Burki saved a penalty from Lautaro Martinez in the 83rd minute
Assistants: Beswick, Nunn.
Fourth official: Coote.
VAR and Assistant VAR: Attwell, Tierney.