Inter Milan were knocked out of the Champions League after a 2-1 home defeat against Barcelona.
Carles Perez gave a much-changed Barca the lead but Inter were always a threat and it was no surprise when they levelled before the break through Romelu Lukaku.
The hosts pushed hard for a winner in the second half but couldn’t find the finishing touch to match their dominance, before Ansu Fati’s late goal sealed Inter’s fate. And the inability of Antonio Conte’s men to overcome the second-string visitors kicks off our talking points.
Inter play the name, not the game
Needing to match Borussia Dortmund’s result against Slavia Prague to advance, Inter could not have wished for a bigger chance as Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Frenkie De Jong, Sergio Busquets, Sergi Roberto, Gerard Pique and Marc-Andre ter Stegen were all rested.
Facing a virtual reserve team, the Italian side’s task was complicated when a lapse by Diego Godin allowed Carles Perez to stroke home the opener.
Inter responded on the stroke of half-time, when Romelu Lukaku fired home a low shot from 20 yards via a deflection off Samuel Umtiti. And although the second half saw the hosts chase the winner they needed, there was a sense they were playing the name rather than the game, not appearing to realise that Barca were there for the taking.
Inter’s lack of conviction was evident as Lukaku wasted a couple of chances, before Martinez then went close as nerves began to fray. Martinez had two goals ruled out for offside and Inter eventually paid the price for their diffident approach when sub Ansu Fati drilled home a late winner. They only have themselves to blame.
Barca and Dortmund leave Inter behind 👋 pic.twitter.com/NTNeK7f8x8— B/R Football (@brfootball) December 10, 2019
Valverde’s back three experiment fails
With so many of his stars rested, Barca manager Ernesto Valverde made a surprise tactical switch by opting for a three-man defensive line, with Umtiti flanked by Jean-Clair Todibo and Clement Lenglet.
The early signs were not good. Twice in the opening ten minutes Inter’s midfield raced away from their counterparts to create good chances, firstly with Borja Valero surging goalwards to tee up Danilo D’Ambrosio for a shot he fired over the bar, before Matias Vecino found Lukaku but the Belgian delayed and Lenglet was able to block.
Although Barca soon took the lead, they never looked comfortable at the back and were particularly susceptible against long balls, which was exactly the route through which Inter equalised just before the break.
With more poise and precision Inter could have easily scored more, and Valverde should conclude that it was worth having a look at a back three…but that he doesn’t need to see it again.
Martinez proves a point
Barca fans will have watched particularly closely the performance of Inter striker Lautaro Martinez, who has been heavily linked with a move to the Camp Nou – and despite suffering defeat the Argentine international delivered a power-packed display which must be tempting the visiting club’s top brass to reach for their chequebooks.
The 22 year-old was full of running, showing exactly the qualities needed to become the successor to hard-charging Luis Suarez. Martinez is more than just a workhorse, though, and in the first half he displayed a velvet touch by adroitly controlling a long ball before unleashing a powerful drive to force Neto into a flying save.
He then used pace, strength and awareness to race onto another long pass and set up Lukaku’s equaliser, and in the second half he nearly netted with another lovely piece of skill and a fierce drive before having two well-taken strikes chalked off for offside. He was on the losing side this time, but don’t be surprised to see him in Blaugrana next season.
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