Inter takes giant step toward last four with win at Benfica

Inter takes giant step toward last four with win at Benfica
Nicolo Barella scored against Benfica

NOS Soccer

Internazionale took a big step toward the Champions League semifinals on a visit to Benfica. The Italians won 2-0 at Estádio da Luz in the outward match in the quarter-finals. Next Wednesday is the return in Milan.

Under former PSV coach Roger Schmidt, Benfica is experiencing a dream season: by far leader in the Portuguese league, group winner in the Champions League above Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus and through to the quarter-finals at the expense of Club Brugge.

Inter, in lousy form in Serie A, was the next hurdle on the road to European success. Coach Schmidt had ex-Ajacied David Neres start on the bench and started the game in Lisbon with former Feyenoord player Fredrik Aursnes.

Roger Schmidt along the line

The first half was by no means exciting, with many unsuccessful passes and few clear-cut chances.

Fueled by the home crowd, the Portuguese initially had a preponderance. Inter goalkeeper André Onana was lucky that after a mistake by Federico Dimarco, a Rafa Silva effort landed on his chest. Benfica captain João Mário shot wide against his old club.

Barella breaks the spell

Toward the end of the first half, Inter took over the initiative and so it remained in the second half. Five minutes after halftime, Nicolò Barella headed a cross from Alessandro Bastoni against the wire, giving Inter the lead.

Five minutes later it could have been tied again, but Denzel Dumfries saved just before the line. With Neres as a substitute, Benfica went in search of the equalizer. It was not convincing and Inter had opportunities in the counter-attack through Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Dumfries.

Romelu Lukaku celebrates his goal against Benfica

After another Bastoni cross from the left, Dumfries headed and goalkeeper Odisseas Vlachodimos made a save. Intervention by VAR Pol van Boekel earned Inter a penalty kick. A cross from Dumfries appeared to have hit the arm of João Mário. Substitute Romelu Lukaku used the penalty convincingly.

For Benfica, it was the second setback in a week. Already last Friday, Benfica lost the league topper against FC Porto (1-2) at home. In the coefficient battle, the Portuguese defeat against Inter is good news for the Netherlands and bad news for Portugal, which risks losing a second CL ticket in 2024 to the Netherlands.

Inter did good business and brought Italy closer to two clubs in the semifinals. With AC Milan-Napoli in the quarterfinals, Italy is already sure of one team in the last four. In addition, the winner of Inter-Benfica will play the winner of AC Milan-Napoli, also bringing Italy close to a final place.

Kayleigh Williams