PRAGUE - A clear run on goal, no opponents in sight before smashing the ball home into the open goal. A key moment without which Inter wouldn’t have been able to leave the Eden Area with the three points. The side had to win and did thanks to a superb display from the strike partnership of Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez. The game itself was full of drama, such as the moment when a VAR decision overturned Lukaku’s goal and it went from 0-2 to 1-1, before the players, coaching staff and fans all celebrated after the final whistle. The 1-3 win over Slavia Prague means it will all go down to the final day and we’re still in with a chance at making the last 16.
The match started fairly slow as Conte’s side looked to build from deep and play around the pressing from Trpišovský’s side. Slavia kept pressing high with three or four players hunting the ball down around the Inter box. It almost paid off with them starting sharply and Husbauer had a chance from a header. The Nerazzurri responded with Lautaro being picked out by Borja, who went close from the edge of the area. Lukaku and Martinez were causing constant issues for the Slavia defence and they made them pay in the 19th minute. Lukaku showed skill and strength to burst away down the right flank before cutting the ball back to Lautaro for the first-time finish. It was also a goal that meant history as it was his ninth in ten goals that have come in the first 30 minutes of games. Also, it meant he'd scored in four consecutive Champions League matches like Crespo (2002), Vieri (2003) and Eto’o (2010).
The Nerazzurri taking the lead didn’t change Slavia Prague’s approach as the hosts remained aggressive. The Nerazzurri stayed compact and didn’t run too many risks of conceding. In the 35th minute, Lukaku scored after Lautaro Martinez had squared the ball. The goal, however, would become a penalty at the other end following a VAR check, with the referee Marciniak pointing to the spot for an earlier challenge from De Vrij on Olayinka. Soucek stepped up and made it 1-1 despite Handanovic getting a foot on it. Despite the setback, Inter weren’t about to give up.
The second half was very much a battle with both teams needing the win and neither willing to desert their identities. Brozovic started to take centre stage as he pushed further forward knowing that Borja Valero, also heavily involved, was sitting further back. Despite the Nerazzurri’s dominance, Slavia almost struck a blow through Masopust’s deflected strike but Handanovic was on hand to tip the ball over the bar. Inter were getting better and putting together some fantastic attacking moves, leading to Conte’s men hitting the woodwork on two separate occasions in the space of three minutes. First, Lukaku hit the frame of the goal with a header following Candreva’s cross before Brozovic then smashed the upright with a right-footed effort from outside the box. Inter were almost made to pay as Masopust went through on goal, but Handanovic won the one-on-one battle to save the Nerazzurri.
The last 15 minutes saw Inter push forwards relentlessly looking for the victory. Lautaro had two efforts, one with his left and one with his right, which grazed the post as Slavia were forced back in their own half. Conte played all his cards: Lazaro and Esposito both came on as the Nerazzurri launched their final assault. And then Conte’s men got to celebrate. Inter’s second goal came about following Lazaro’s ball forward and Frydrych’s slip: Lukaku, who suddenly found himself with just Kolar to beat, rounded the goalkeeper and fired into the empty net to deservedly restore the Nerazzurri’s lead. However, it was far from over. The hosts looked to respond immediately, with Soucek somehow missing what looked like an easy tap-in to the relief of the Inter players. But the Nerazzurri did make it safe in the 88th minute, and it was a stunning goal to cap off a stunning performance from the front pairing of Lukaku and Lautaro. The Belgian played the ball into the box with the outside of his right foot and the Argentine volleyed home an absolute beauty to seal the deal. Game, set and match. In the end, it wasn’t important that Lukaku had another goal ruled out for offside in the 93rd minute after a VAR check: Inter ran out 3-1 winners.
A win where heart, character, desire and great technical ability were all on display. Inter now have given themselves the opportunity to qualify for the last 16 of the Champions League: the Nerazzurri sit second on seven points level with Borussia Dortmund, who suffered a 3-1 defeat in Barcelona. Now, Conte’s men need to match the Germans’ result on the final matchday in Group F. A vital game at San Siro awaits on 10 December, and these lads deserve the support of everyone. Forza Inter forever!
SLAVIA PRAGUE 1-3 NTER
SLAVIA PRAGUE (4-2-3-1): 1 Kolar; 5 Coufal, 25 Frydrych (24 Takacs 83'), 15 Kudela, 18 Boril; 22 Soucek; 10 Husbauer (12 Zeleny 70'); 9 Olayinka, 7 Stanciu (27 Traore 58'), 23 Sevcik; 28 Masopust.
Substitutes: 30 Markovic, 14 Van Buren, 21 Skoda, 29 Helal.
Coach: Jindřich Trpišovský.
INTER (3-5-2): 1 Handanovic; 2 Godin, 6 De Vrij, 37 Skriniar; 87 Candreva, 8 Vecino (30 Esposito 80'), 20 Borja Valero (5 Gagliardini 76'), 77 Brozovic, 34 Biraghi (20 Lazaro 76'); 10 Lautaro Martinez, 9 Lukaku.
Substitutes: 27 Padelli, 16 Politano, 33 D’Ambrosio, 95 Bastoni.
Coach: Antonio Conte.
Goalscorers: 20' Lautaro (I), 37' Soucek (S) su rig., 81' Lukaku (I), 88' Lautaro (I)
Bookings: Vecino (I), Lautaro (I), Kudela (S)
Note: Conte (I) booked
Added time: 2' - 3'
Referee: Szymon Marciniak
Assistants: Paweł Sokolnicki, Tomasz Listkiewicz
Fourth official: Tomasz Musiał
VAR and Assistant VAR: Pawel Gil, Marcin Borkowski.