Inter took on Celtic today at the Meazza in the second leg of their Europa League round of 32 showdown. The first match saw a mix of inspiring and disappointing play from Inter but ended in a 3-3 draw. However, the squad could be redeemed by having a good showing at home and qualifying for the next round of the tournament against a beatable Celtic side. While the three away goals that Inter scored in the first leg gave the Nerazzurri a favorable position heading in to this match. I hoped to see an Inter squad that came out of the gates with tempo and took their chances, announcing that we could be both cynical and clinical in Europe. Moreover, I wanted to see an Inter that was concentrated for 90 minutes and without serious mental or psychological lapses.
The game began relatively cautiously compared to last week with both teams looking to feel one another out. Inter was having trouble maintaining possession of the ball and imposing themselves on the game and once again Carrizo was forced to make a great save when the defense let Guidetti go free in the Inter box early on. At the other end Icardi was inches away from burying a great cross-box ball from Santon. However by the 25’ minute mark neither team had taken control of this tie.
Inter were given a boost in the 35th when Van Djik received his second yellow and was given his marching orders. However, from the free-kick Inter were robbed by the Celtic keeper with a miraculous save on a strong Icardi header. After this Inter had great opportunities from Shaqiri blocked and Danilo saved by the keeper. Although Inter began to take control after the red card; the passing and build up play was not on in the first half. Statistically Hernanes was prolific but other than a few individual moves he was not great; getting dispossessed in dangerous positions various times in the half.
Inter started the second half vey cautiously once again and were giving up far too much of the ball for a team with superior numbers. Moreover, the Nerazzurri were failing to attack with pace and keep Celtic under pressure. When Inter did get chances the Celtic keeper was standing on his head making save after save. Interestingly, Mancini once again handed written instructions to Ranocchia but this time he passed it on and everyone in the class had a look.
Inter continued to look frustrating in attack and although Celtic had very little of the ball the nerves were beginning to creep in as time went on. Oddly, Mancini waited until the 79th to make his first changes, replacing Hernanes with Kovacic and Campagnaro for Danilo. It seemed like the longer time passed, the more likely it was that something terrible would happen. Happily, just when I was about to melt into my seat from nerves Freddy Guarin stepped up and hit an absolute blockbuster into the top corner of the net and sealed Inter’s place in the round of 16. Thank you Freddy.
Ultimately this match was far from perfect. Inter were up a man for most of it and failed to take the initiative throughout. Although a draw would have sent us through, scoring a couple of goals would have made this experience a lot easier and I am not totally convinced by what I witnessed on the pitch this evening. Individually, other than the goal Freddy Guarin had an average night and Xherdan Shaqiri looked a bit tired and was not as prolific as he was in the first leg. Carrizo was not called on often but made a big save on Guidetti early and controlled his box tonight. Moreover, Palacio sacrificed himself physically tonight and did a ton of running for the team. We did play against 10 men but Inter did not concede and that was promising for our defenses confidence. I almost suffered a heart attack but the Nerazzurri and I are still alive. On to the next one.