For almost an hour it was looking so rosy for Inter on Wednesday, as they led Barcelona on their own patch without looking in any real danger. That was until Luis Suarez scored a magnificent brace to turn the game on it’s head and consign the Nerazzurri to a 2-1 Champions League defeat.
Whilst it came at a cost of sitting deep and soaking up plenty of pressure, Inter coach Antonio Conte got his tactics spot on in the first half and his side looked on course for a famous victory to kickstart their European campaign.
It wasn’t to be in the end, as Suarez and Lionel Messi combined to show why no amount of defending can legislate for the combined brilliance of the South American pair, but Inter can return to Italy with confidence despite the result.
Maturity after early lead
Inter stunned the home support by racing into the lead with barely three minutes gone, as Lautaro Martinez pounced on a loose ball to break clear and rifle in. However, after going ahead the Nerazzurri then showed maturity and intelligence in defence to frustrate Barcelona and were sitting comfortably by half time.
Dropping deep and playing a narrow five-man defence, with wing-backs tucking in, Inter were able to form a solid block to crowd out Suarez, Messi and Antoine Griezmann, whilst forcing Barcelona to send the ball to the flanks.
The Biscione expertly biding their time before committing to a man rushing out of a crowded box to intercept, usually Kwadwo Asamoah, and pinch the ball before getting it upfield.
This system worked effectively for almost an hour until they were unlocked by a moment of magic by Suarez, and the equaliser appeared to knock Inter’s confidence at the back. Nonetheless, it was a stellar defensive display.
Martinez makes his mark
Reminiscent of Alexandre Pato racing through to score an early goal against Barcelona for AC Milan in 2011, young Argentina striker Lautaro Martinez was straight out of the blocks to become the first Inter player to score away against Barcelona since 1970.
Showing his bullish strength to hold off Clement Lenglet, the former Racing forward sprinted through before accurately tucking the ball into the bottom corner to give Inter the perfect start. A nuisance throughout, the 22-year-old showed why Nerrazurri fans needn’t long for compatriot Mauro Icardi.