After an eight year absence from Europe’s most prestigious competition, Internazionale forged an extraordinary comeback to defeat Tottenham Hotspur in Group B.
FC Internazionale last appeared in the UEFA Champions League during the 2010/11 campaign under the tutelage of Rafael Benitez and Leonardo respectively. Jose Mourinho had guided them to an iconic treble during the campaign before, but they were unable to defend their crown and succumbed to a quarter-final exit.
They were on the verge of marking their return with a defeat, as Tottenham Hotspur carried a one goal lead into the final ten minutes. The visitors had been the strongest team on the pitch and Christian Eriksen consolidated a superior performance with the opening goal on 53 minutes.
Stefan De Vrij was unable to comprehensively clear his lines, after Samir Handanovic saved an initial strike from the Danish international, and his follow-up took a viscous deflection off Brazilian defender Miranda to divert his looping effort over the corpse of the hapless Slovenian goalkeeper.
The final whistle was quickly approaching and Tottenham Hotspur were comfortably containing the opposition with a cautious set-up to maintain their one-goal advantage. Then, virtually from the prospect of no danger, Mauro Icardi marked a passive appearance with a phenomenal long range volley.
Kwadwo Asamoah strode alarmingly down the left channel and scooped an inviting delivery to the edge of the penalty area. Icardi was present to accept his gift and unleash a low missile into the far bottom corner.
Pochettino insisted on settling for a point, despite suffering from the shock of Tottenham surrendering their lead. It would prove to be a grave mistake, as Internazionale dealt the knockout punch to condemn Spurs to a third successive defeat in all competitions.
FC Barcelona also won handsomely against Dutch opponents PSV Eindhoven by a 4-0 margin, meaning Tottenham Hotspur are stationed in an unappetising third place in Group B. Internazionale will travel to Eindhoven for Match Day 2, whereas Spurs host group favourites FC Barcelona.
Tottenham Hotspur started unconvincingly and were seemingly recovering from a hangover inflicted by Saturday’s defeat to Liverpool. They couldn’t grasp hold of possession and Internazionale began to cover ground down the left channel via the combination of Kwadwo Asamoah and Ivan Perisic.
Mauro Icardi endured a passive first half and was unable to trouble Tottenham’s susceptible defensive line. It took Tottenham a significant amount of time to grow into the match but they eventually began to spread the ball around with confidence and the overlapping full-backs Serge Aurier and Ben Davies began to influence the tie in the final third.
It was a rather monotonous affair during the first period, but Harry Kane should’ve sent Spurs into the half-time interval with the advantage. Christian Eriksen was the most promising spark in the team and he delivered a delicate and picturesque chip into the path of the England international to assist him with the perfect opportunity.
Kane controlled the ball majestically just yards from goal but a lapse of concentration forced him to squander a prime opportunity. Samir Handanovic was alert to immediately pounce at the smell of danger and narrowed down the angle to force Kane into clumsily running the ball out of play.
Eriksen also had a notable chance when his speculative free-kick from range forced Handanovic into action, but the first half was rather lacklustre from the perspective of sensationalists searching for goalmouth action.
After a cheerless beginning to the tie, Christian Eriksen opened the second half with a bang to generate rapturous celebrations from the away supporters packed inside the iconic San Siro. It was an unavoidable goal from a defensive perspective and Internazionale supporters were extremely displeased by the manner in which they conceded.
Brozovic and Perisic lost a duel mid-way inside their own half to Eriksen, who was then able to glide towards the penalty area and unleash a low strike on goal. Handanovic sprawled low to his right to parry the ball into the safety net of De Vrij, but the Dutchman cleared unconvincingly under pressure from Erik Lamela.
This awarded the Danish international with the prime opportunity to beat Handanovic at the second time of asking. His strike took a wicked deflection off Miranda, and despite the ball brushing his fingertips, Handanovic was unable to prevent the ball from spinning into the far top corner.
Pochettino added further energy in the final third with the introduction of Lucas Moura, as Tottenham Hotspur went in search of a second goal. Serge Aurier was causing havoc with his incessant overlapping runs and Tottenham looked the most likeliest of the two teams to score the next goal.
However, Tottenham began to sit deeper and take their foot off the gas as the clock ticked beyond 75 minutes. It was a catastrophic mistake that cost them their lead and eventually the match.
Serge Aurier was drawn inside by Matias Vecino and left Kwadwo Asamoah with an abyss of space on the left channel. He was unable to apply intense pressure once the Ghanaian received possession and paid the price when Icardi unleashed a volley with an immaculate technique into the bottom corner.
The marking on the edge of the penalty area could also be questioned. Tottenham’s midfield players scurried into the penalty area once the ball was released to Asamoah on the left hand side and left Icardi completely unmarked to receive the ball. Eriksen was tracking back in a desperate attempt to intercept the cross, but his last-ditch efforts were in vain and the scores were level.
Aurier was also partly at fault for the late winner from Uruguayan midfielder Matias Vecino. De Vrij intelligently positioned himself just inside the penalty area and he was able to guide a free header to the back post from Candreva’s out-swinging corner kick. Aurier was originally marking Vecino once the initial ball was delivered into the penalty area, but once the corner swung towards De Vrij, the Ivorian drifted from his marker and gifted Vecino with a free header. Vorm was rooted to the spot and Vecino ruthlessly dispatched a striking header into the far top corner.
Man of the Match: Matias Vecino