MILAN - A feeling somewhere between relief and regret. Inter’s opening match in the 2019/20 UEFA Champions League finished in a 1-1 draw at home to Slavia Prague. Barella’s goal in added time rescued a point for the Nerazzurri, but Conte’s side will be slightly disappointed following pressure in the closing stages. Ultimately, Inter weren’t able to repeat what they did last year in their opening Champions League game, when they won it at the last against Tottenham, and had to settle for a point. Nicolò Barella’s goal in the 92nd minute was his first for the Club and denied Slavia Prague the victory, with the Czech side having taken the lead after 63 minutes through Olayinka.
Jindřich Trpišovský’s side were very much like Antonio Conte had described them in his press conference on the eve of the match: tough, full of running, well-prepared tactically and capable of striking a blow. Meanwhile, Inter’s performance might have been missing that but of spark compared to the three league matches they’ve played so far, but the desire not to lose was there for all to see.
Slavia Prague had the first opportunity in the seventh minute as Stanciu looked to surprise Handanovic with a free kick, but the Inter goalkeeper was ready to make the save. This was a Slavia Prague side displaying an excellent attitude and ready to press high and put in an aggressive performance, while Inter were looking to get it forward to the strikers quickly and make use of the wings. De Vrij had the Nerazzurri’s first big chance of the game in the twelfth minute but couldn’t keep his header down following Snesi’s free kick. Candreva then had a go, firing off target with an effort from distance. Inter were increasing the pressure: with 16 minutes on the clock D’Ambrosio won the ball back for the home side before playing it to Sensi, who then found Lautaro: the Argentine’s strike across the goalkeeper skimmed the far post. Five minutes later, Lukaku got in between two defenders but fired over the bar after Candreva’s ball into the box. In the 23rd minute, D’Ambrosio got on the end of Sensi’s free kick but was denied by Kolar. As the first half was coming to a close, the Nerazzurri lost their rhythm somewhat as Slavia started to win the second balls and find space to play.
The second half started with a great chance for the Nerazzurri: Sensi's cross was palmed away by Kolar and Lautaro pounced on the rebound, but his right-footed effort was smothered by the keeper. This fast start was followed by the first substitution of the match, Lazaro making his Inter debut after Candreva was forced off through injury. Slavia Prague however did not let up with their good play: in the 51st minute Stanciu fired one off his right that Handanovic saved, and just two minutes later the Romanian placed his effort over the crossbar. Two warning signs of what was to come, as in the 63rd minute Olayinka burst down the right and played it into the middle for substitute Zeleny, who snapped a shot off on his left. It was a miracle save by Handanovic to keep it out, but Olayinka was quickest to the rebound and smashed it into the net. 1-0 down and an uphill struggle ahead. The visitors still did not let up with their relentless pressing, and Stanciu grazed the frame of the goal with his free kick from distance. Conte made an effort to shake things up with two changes: Barella and Politano on for Brozovic and Lautaro. Barella threatened an equaliser in the 79th minute, with his right-footed shot sailing over after Lukaku’s set. Inter continued pushing for the draw in the closing minutes as the defenders pushed forward, first D’Ambrosio was kept out by Kolar, then Skriniar shot without success. A huge chunk of added time was then signalled, 8 minutes for the various interventions of VAR, rekindling hope for the Nerazzurri both on the pitch and in the stands. Then, in the 92nd minute, Sensi slammed his free kick into the crossbar. The ball looped up into the air and dropped right onto Barella’s foot for him to volley home for the equaliser. A thrilling last few minutes as Lukaku headed at goal from metres out only to be kept out with a brilliant save, but the effort was offside anyway. A final few chances, but not enough to find victory.
However, the boys did not stop fighting right until the very end: a draw snatched in the closing minutes and five more games still to play in the group. Now heads must turn straight to the #MilanDerby, scheduled for Saturday night at San Siro. Come on lads, and as ever, #ForzaInter.
INTER (3-5-2): 1 Handanovic; 33 D'Ambrosio, 6 De Vrij, 37 Skriniar; 87 Candreva (19 Lazaro 49'), 5 Gagliardini, 77 Brozovic (23 Barella 71'), 12 Sensi, 18 Asamoah; 10 Lautaro (16 Politano 71'), 9 Lukaku.
Substitutes: 27 Padelli, 2 Godin, 8 Vecino, 7 Sanchez.
Coach: Antonio Conte
SLAVIA PRAGUE (4-2-3-1): 1 Kolar; 5 Coufal, 15 Kudela, 2 Hovorka, 18 Boril; 27 Traoré (12 Zeleny 60'), 22 Soucek; 28 Masopust (29 Helal 79'), 7 Stanciu, 9 Olayinka (17 Provod 85'); 10 Husbauer.
Substitutes: 30 Markovic, 11 Tecl, 21 Skoda, 25 Frydrych.
Coach: Jindřich Trpišovský
Goals: 63' Olayinka (S), 92' Barella (I)
Bookings: Hovorka (S), Asamoah (I), Politano (I), Soucek (S)
Added time: 1' - 8'
Referee: Buquet (FRA)
Assistants: Debart, Pacelli
Fourth official: Delerue
VAR and VAR Assistant: Letexier, Millot