Inter in quarter-finals CL again since 2011, ‘how’ doesn’t matter for a while then
It wasn’t pretty, but for a moment Internazionale fans won’t care. After a 0-0 draw on visit to Porto (out game 1-0), the Italians qualified for the quarter-finals of the Champions League.
Switching on in the 95th minute would have been enough, as at the end of seven minutes of injury time Inter-back Denzel Dumfries saved a ball off the line, André Onana tapped a ball onto the post and moments later the goalkeeper, nailed to the ground, watched another header hit the crossbar. A painful night for Porto.
Italian soccer, meanwhile, is racking up quite a few points for the coefficient table. After all, with Inter’s win, AC Milan already qualified for the quarter-finals last week and Napoli’s excellent starting position (0-2) Wednesday’s visit to Eintracht Frankfurt, there is a good chance that three Italian teams will soon be among the best eight in Europe.
Doesn’t take away the fact that in a few decades people won’t be talking about the confrontation between Porto and Internazionale. The result was sacred for Inter, not the game. And the 48 thousand Portuguese in Estadio do Dragão knew it. Rarely did the stadium name describe a match so well.
For almost the entire game, Porto tapped the ball around helplessly, with no real pressure from Inter. Only when the Portuguese got too close to Onana’s goal for the Italian’s liking did Inter’s butchers intervene. Stefan de Vrij was without an apron for a long time, the central defender only filling in deep in the second half.
The choppers were in the possession of the trio of Darmian, Acerbi and Bastoni, and they handled them just fine. The indefatigable Dumfries, buffeting on the right, did not feature in the game until his crucial save on the line. It will be a boost for the Dutchman, who had another nasty night in Friday’s loss at low-fly Spezia. Dumfries caused a penalty.
Against Porto, what Inter did was hold back, disrupt for ninety minutes, keep running. No wonder Darmian and Bastoni were already reaching for their cramped calves twenty minutes before time. Or was it drama? Because you don’t have to explain much about that to Italian, and for that matter Portuguese soccer players, it turned out once again.
With regularity, a player would fall to the ground groaning, only to chase the next ball like a gazelle moments later. Football-wise it was not much. Porto lacked creativity and Inter believed in it, lurking on the counter. There were no potential finalists here, that much was clear.
While it started so spectacularly, when Mateus Uribe aimed a cutting shot toward the top corner after only two minutes. Onana looked anxious out of his eyes, for what was to come next. But for the amount of ball possession Porto had, the number of big chances fell foul.
First quarterfinal since 2011
In the closing seconds of the game, the frustrated Pepe – no, not the 40-year-old man-putter, but the 26-year-old arrowhead used as a rising back on the right – received a second yellow, and thus red.
It didn’t matter, because Inter are through to the quarter-finals. And that’s the first time since 2011. Wednesday it’s up to Napoli to complete the Italian trilogy.