MÖNCHENGLADBACH – Borussia vs. Inter was a complicated game. The Nerazzurri initially dominated before the Germans came back into it. Conte’s men then regained momentum but were left sweating at the end. In order to gain control of such matches, many qualities are required: class, cool heads, a willingness to sweat, determination, passion. “There’s no love without pain” were the words of captain Handanovic following the match. And this was an Inter side deserving of our love, a team that can still progress to the last 16 of the Champions League thanks to this triumph in Germany. In addition to an Inter win against Shakhtar, who managed to beat Real yesterday, the result from the other group game will have to go the Nerazzurri’s way on matchday six. But now is not the time to think about that.
3-5-2 against 4-2-3-1. Two different formations, two different philosophies. The Germans like to make the most of their unpredictability and pace in the final third, but for the first 35 minutes of yesterday’s game they were thwarted. Conte’s team were solid, a foundation from which the Nerazzurri were able to put together several high-quality moves. They’d draw the opposition in with crisp, precise passing, play out from the back in an orchestrated manner and look to find Lukaku up top and Lautaro in behind. The latter attacked the spaces ferociously, as he did against Sassuolo. It didn’t matter that he failed to find the net, most important was the fact that he created doubts in the German defence. El Toro was able to break through on a number of occasions, taking six shots in total and being denied by the woodwork, as he was in the previous fixture between the sides.
The work done by the midfielders was vital, intense and gruelling. On his return, Brozovic topped off an excellent display with a magnificent sliding tackle to win back the ball in the closing stages. The Croat strung together moves with precision (completing 70 passes out of 80) and also broke up many from the opposition, regaining possession on eight occasions (more than any other Inter player). He also provided the assist for Lukaku’s first goal with Gagliardini having won the ball back for Inter in the middle of the park.
Thwarting the opposition and getting the Nerazzurri moving forward: Barella and Gagliardini did this continuously, applying pressure high up the pitch to transform defence into attack quickly. Nicolò got involved in 14 duels, was the victim of a fair few heavy challenges and won the ball back on several occasions. Meanwhile, Gagliardini provided a beautifully weighted pass to set up Darmian for the opening goal.
Everyone did their bit, although just two got on the scoresheet: Matteo Darmian and, as we’ve become accustomed to, Romelu Lukaku. The former provided constant support down the right flank during the first half and was able to find the net for the first time in the Champions League.
The Belgian striker stepped up with the score at 1-1, scoring twice from three shots in a display of ruthless efficiency. One goal with his left, the other with his right. As already mentioned, the first came from Brozovic’s pass forward, while his second arrived following Hakimi’s ball across the box, with the Moroccan, who had entered the fray as a substitute, having been picked out by Sanchez.
Numerous names, many excellent pieces of play. This was a team performance that allowed Inter to come away from a difficult away fixture with three points. Handanovic also did his bit, as did the defence in the closing stages. Soon, our attentions will turn to Shakhtar, but first we need to focus on Bologna.
Borussia Mönchengladbach 2-3 Inter
BORUSSIA MÖNCHENGLADBACH (4-2-3-1): 1 Sommer; 18 Lainer, 24 Jantschke (8 Zakaria 46'), 28 Ginter, 17 Wendt (11 Wolf 78'); 6 Kramer, 32 Neuhaus; 19 Lazaro, 13 Stindl (36 Embolo 70'), 10 Thuram; 14 Pléa.
Substitutes: 21 Sippel, 31 Grün, 3 M. Lang, 7 Herrmann, 15 Beyer, 16 Traoré, 22 Bénes, 40 Poulsen.
Coach: Marco Rose.
INTER (3-5-2): 1 Handanovic; 37 Skriniar, 6 de Vrij, 95 Bastoni; 36 Darmian (2 Hakimi 60'), 23 Barella, 77 Brozovic, 5 Gagliardini, 15 Young (14 Perisic 87'); 9 Lukaku, 10 Lautaro (7 Alexis 71').
Substitutes: 35 Stankovic, 97 Radu, 12 Sensi, 13 Ranocchia, 14 Perisic, 24 Eriksen, 33 D'Ambrosio.
Coach: Antonio Conte.
Goalscorers: 17' Darmian (I), 45'+1 Pléa (BM), 64' and 73' Lukaku (I), 75' Pléa (BM)
Bookings: Stindl (BM), Lautaro (I), de Vrij (I), Barella (I), Lainer (BM), Young (I), Lukaku (I), Gagliardini (I), Bastoni (I)
Note: Antonio Conte and Marco Rose both booked.
Added time: 1' - 6'.
Referee: Danny Makkelie (NED).
Assistants: Mario Diks (NED), Hessel Steegstra (NED).
Fourth Official: Ivan Kružliak (SVK).
VAR: Kevin Blom (NED).
VAR Assistant: Jochem Kamphuis (NED).