Inter Milan look all but eliminated from the UEFA Champions League after they lost 2-0 to Real Madrid in an all-or-nothing tie at the San Siro on Wednesday evening.
Eden Hazard gave Los Blancos the perfect start from the penalty spot after Nacho Fernandez was fouled in the area. Inter’s evening then went from bad to worse as an incident with referee Anthony Taylor saw Arturo Vidal awarded two quickfire yellow cards and a sending off.
Real took advantage of that as substitute Rodrygo attempted to slam home Lucas Vazquez’s cross mid-way through the second period. His shot took a wicked deflection off of former defender Achraf Hakimi and ended up in the back of the net as the Spaniard’s sealed a confident victory.
Here are three things we learned from the game:
Vidal loses his cool
For a player so experienced within European football, Antonio Conte would have been hoping that Vidal would have been one of the key cogs in turning around Inter’s poor start to their latest Champions League campaign. However, the pressure of the clash against Real really seemed to get to the Chilean midfielder.
In the incident that eventually saw him earn his marching orders, he appeared to remonstrate with the referee after not being awarded a penalty. The sending off really was avoidable and it gave Vidal’s teammates a huge amount of work to do in his absence. It was even more damaging considering that the Italian giants were much improved after the break, meaning Vidal’s presence might well have made all the difference as his team searched for a route back into the game and indeed the group.
Whether his petulance was down to the importance of the tie or another aspect, either way, it will be hugely disappointing for Conte and Inter supporters.
Hazard back on track?
After what was an extremely difficult debut season at the Santiago Bernabeu, Eden Hazard could actually have a big impact in Madrid this season. Whilst his opener at the San Siro was only a penalty, it meant that he surpassed his entire goal total of last season, that being just one.
The Belgian’s strike was also his first in the UEFA Champions League in over three years. There is still some way to go for Hazard to be back to his but there are certainly green shoots of recovery.
Real’s midfield control sees them through
One of the main reasons that Zinedine Zidane’s men had a relatively straight-forward evening was their control of the ball in midfield. The starting trio of Toni Kroos, Luka Modric and Martin Odegaard enjoyed the majority of possession throughout the opening period of the game, leaving Inter to chase nothing but shadows.
Their experience and game awareness shone through all evening, not giving the hosts much of a glimpse of the ball throughout the 90 minutes. Even after Conte’s men pushed right at the beginning of the second-half, Zidane introduced Casemiro to shore up the centre of midfield even more which again shut the door on the Serie A giants.
The sheer statistics from the game indicate this fact even further with Real completing over 300 passes more than their hosts. This sheer lack of control and opportunity on the ball is what cost Inter so much and what has surely booked their elimination from the Champions League.
Inter Milan: Handanovic (6); Bastoni (5) ((D’Ambrosio (5), 45′), Skriniar (6), de Vrij (6); Young (6), Barella (6), Vidal (4), Gagliardini (5), Hakimi (5) (Sanchez (5), 63′); Martinez (5) (Perisic (5), 45′), Lukaku (5) (Eriksen (N/A), 86′).
Real Madrid: Courtois (6); Mendy (6), Nacho (7), Varane (7), Carvajal (6); Kroos (7), Modric (7), Odegaard (6) (Casemiro (7) (58′); Vazquez (7), Hazard (7) (Vinicius Jr. (N/A), 77′), Mariano (6) (Rodrygo (7), 59′).
Goals: Hazard (pen 7′), Hakimi OG (59′)
Referee: Anthony Taylor
Yellow Cards: Gagliardini (19′), Vidal (33′, 33′), Sensi (86′)
Red Cards: Vidal (33′)