Nerazzurri lost to Sevilla in the final of the Europa League after a brace from Luuk De Jong and Diego Carlos’s deflected shot was enough to win the game for Sevilla. Romelu Lukaku’s penalty and Diego Godin’s powerful header wasn’t enough for Inter.
Against Shakhtar, we saw how well Inter pressed and didn’t allow Shakhtar to build from the back. Against Sevilla, Inter could not show that pressing. They were always late and unorganized. Sevilla could find extra man most of the time when building up from the back. This forced Inter to drop back.
Inter’s play wasn’t convincing when in possession of the ball. When you are in possession of the ball, 2 things matter the most. The first one is the off the ball movement. Inter lacked off the ball movement in the attacking phase. In the build-up play we saw nice interchange of positions from players but not in the attacking phase.
The second one is passing tempo. Apart from some plays, Inter’s passing tempo was slow, especially in the second half. Due to the slow passing tempo, Inter struggled to break Sevilla’s deep block.
Inter’s Starting Line Up
Antonio Conte opted to field the same starting XI for the fifth straight match. In terms of movement, Handanovic actively participated in the build-up play. De Vrij mainly stayed in his position, Godin’s and Bastoni’s movements were interesting, because while Gagliardini and Brozovic dropped back to their position, Godin and Bastoni pushed high up to become wing-backs.
When the side center-backs pushed up and Gagliardini and Brozovic dropped deep, Young and D’Ambrosio moved to the center as Inter maintained the shape.
Gagliardini and Brozovic were responsible to build from the back. Sevilla pressed well and did not let Brozovic get the ball from center-backs. When Brozovic could not get the ball, Gagliardini became a second deep-lying playmaker. As he saw more of the ball. Barella played mostly in between the lines, and supported the attack.
Lukaku and Martinez both nearly had the same duties. They were both responsible to drop back and get the ball. With their lay-off passes Inter aimed to get out of pressure and quickly attack. Lukaku also offered many runs in behind but Inter couldn’t effectively use him.
Let’s take a look at why the reasons Inter lost the final.
The Perfect Start
Antonio Conte couldn’t wish for more. Lukaku scored 2 minutes into the game. Quick counter-attack led to Lukaku’s penalty which he scored.
In the goal, we saw how Lukaku can be unplayable sometimes. After clearing the throw-in, Barella won the second ball and Lukaku started the runs in behind. This was where we saw Lukaku’s superiority against Diego Carlos.
First, Lukaku had qualitative superiority. He is a lot faster than Diego Carlos. Second, Lukaku was facing the goal while getting the ball. Diego Carlos had to adjust his body to counter Lukaku which gave Lukaku superiority.
After the goal, we all expected that Inter would play more conservatively, look for counter-attacks. But that was not the case.
Inter struggled to press in an organized way. Sevilla exploited that unorganized pressing in the first goal. Sevilla identified Inter’s left side as their weak estlink. Most of their attacks came from there as well as the first goal.
Banega took the ball in front of center-backs and Brozovic went to him a little bit late. Gagliardini and Barella matched man to man. Here, we can talk about 2 problems and both of them are true.
First, Inter defensive line stayed a little deep, allowed space for Navas to take the ball in behind midfield line. You could say that Bastoni was late to press Jesus Navas.
The second one is more simple. Since the defensive line stayed a little deep, the other players should have reacted to that. Lukaku should have been positioned in the same line as Lautaro Martinez then Inter could have been closed the passing line much better.
When Banega played the pass to Navas, Bastoni stepped up to press him. Young was man-oriented on Suso so, he could not have been able to cover Bastoni’s space. Gagliardini focused on Fernando so he didn’t realize the space opening up.
The player who made the run is Jordan and Barella was supposed to be marking him as we saw in the first picture but Barella lost his man. De Vrij went to cover Bastoni’s space. Inter’s horizontal compactness wasn’t ideal and the defence lost its orientation.
In the end, Sevilla created a 2v2 situation in the box. De Jong lost his marker Godin and scored to tie the game.
As already discussed Inter’s high pressing also wasn’t at the level they wanted. Whenever Inter applied high pressure, Sevilla created an extra man and escaped from the pressure.
Inter’s wingless formation was exploited by Sevilla. Inter pressed well on the left side and did not allow Sevilla to progress from there but Sevilla found escape route via switches of play in the build-up play. Although Inter could match the Sevilla man to man on the left, Sevilla escaped with the switch of play.
The other struggle Inter had was creating chances against Sevilla’s deep block. Sevilla formed a close and tight team with a 4-4-1-1 formation in the deep block. Sevilla closed any gaps in between the lines and not allowed Inter to use these spaces.
When Godin had the ball, Banega used his cover shadow to block the passing lane to Brozovic. When Brozovic did not get the first balls from the centre-backs, Gagliardini became a second primary option in the build-up.
Suso marked him closely so he didn’t get the ball either. Jordan and Fernando closed the passing lines to Lukaku and Martinez. Therefore, Inter could not find them with direct balls. Inter forced to play sideways.
Here we saw Sevilla’s deep block in the left side. Same formation, same compactness. Inter did not create chances against a deep block.
Inter showed improvements as the game ticking. Main improvements were defensive movements from side to side. In other words, better pressing in the flanks. The other was the build-up play under Sevilla’s high pressure.
As you can see in the image above, Inter improved their pressing on the left side. Bastoni, Young, Gagliardini improved their understanding when to man-mark, when to cover the space and when to press. From 12th minute to up until 74th minute this sector pressed well.
Sevilla applied high pressure most of the first half. Inter at first struggled under the pressure and did not find a way out. From 15th minute to the end of game Inter did make a clean build-up plays.
Inter started to use the extra man in the build-up very well. Passing was much more on the one-touch. Understanding the space was improved. As a consequence, Inter did build-up from the back much more easily. But, their creation problems remained the same.
Inter’s Set-Piece Problems
If we are looking for a simple way to explain Inter’s defeat, it would be the poor set-piece defending. At the highest level, teams have to prepare themselves for set-pieces in the smallest details.
Set-pieces may not seem important to many but in matches like this it can be, and was a decisive factor. As we saw Inter lost the game because they did not defend well in the set-pieces.
Inter used zonal marking when defending the wide free-kicks. De Jong first came back and then attacked the far post. In this particular set-piece, Banega crossed to the near post. The ball did not arrive to the back post but De Jong made his movement correctly.
Inter again used zonal marking when defending the wide free-kicks. Zonal marking in set-pieces is not a bad choice but this time Banega crossed the back post and Sevilla overloaded the back post with Kounde, De Jong and Ocampos positioned that area.
De Jong made the same movement as the previous free-kick. He matched himself with Gagliardini who is a tall player but is not good in the air and De Jong scored.
The defending during set-pieces continued to be a problem only this time Diego Carlos scored the winner.
After the first clearance was made, Inter’s defence went too deep. This allowed 4 Sevilla players to have a chance to shoot. Diego Carlos did and the ball deflected off Lukaku and past Handanovic. Ideally, after the first header, Inter players should have run out of the box. Instead, they defended the six-yard box.
Inter Missed Their Chances
At the highest level you cannot afford to play poorly during any moment of the game. As we saw Inter did not play well when defending set-pieces. Sevilla played on those moments well and won the cup. Despite everything, Inter had a chance to win when Lukaku missed the 1 v 1 chance against Bono.
In the midfield, Inter recovers the second ball which Sevilla defenders tried to clear with a header. The Sevilla defence was unorganized and Barella played the first-time pass to Lukaku who was running behind the defence but Lukaku missed. Overall Inter played their counter-attacks poorly.
Late in the game, this time Candreva missed the chance to tie the game. Brozovic’s early cross found Candreva who was running from midfield into the box. Candreva mistimed the ball could not hit it properly. Inter played this attacking moment badly, again.
Antonio Conte made very late substitutions as Sevilla played nearly the entire second half in the deep block and did not press Inter high up.
In situations like these, you need creative players. Conte thought the game was balanced, but it wasn’t. This loss will hurt Inter because they know Sevilla did not play better than Inter who had more clear chances to score.