Inter’s Champions League fate will be decided on the final matchday against Barcelona thanks to a Lautaro Martinez and Romelu Lukaku masterclass, as the Nerazzurri secured a 3-1 victory over Slavia Prague on Wednesday.
The Nerazzurri entered the game knowing that wins from their final two matches would secure their spot in the next round regardless of other results, and Antonio Conte’s men are halfway there thanks to the play of their two outstanding strikers.
Lautaro opened proceedings, his fourth Champions League match in a row with a goal, only for Slavia to level from the penalty spot in controversial fashion. However, unlike previous Inter away matches in Europe this season, the Nerazzurri persevered in the second half and took home all three points thanks to goals from Lukaku and Lautaro in the final 10 minutes of the match.
It was the home side who had the first real chance when Josef Husbauer flashed ahead just wide of the mark, while Lautaro Martinez pulled his left-footed strike away from goal.
The Argentine wouldn’t be denied in the 19th minute as Inter took the lead thanks to some wonderful hold-up play by Lukaku. The Belgian collected the ball down the right and fended off several defenders before pulling back for Lautaro, who fired into the roof of the net.
It was the Argentine’s fourth Champions League game in a row with a goal, equalling Nerazzurri legends Samuel Eto’o, Christian Vieri and Hernan Crespo who achieved the feat in 2010, 2003 and 2002 respectively.
Lukaku thought he had tapped home to make it 2-0 after Lautaro collected a poor Michal Frydrych back pass, however a VAR check called referee Szymon Marciniak to look at contact between Stefan de Vrij and Peter Olayinka in the Nerazzurri box.
The contact was confirmed, wiping the Inter goal off the board and handing Slavia Prague a penalty, which Tomas Soucek slotted home with precision.
Lukas Masopust found some space outside the Inter penalty area in the 64th minute and fired a shot on goal that took a deflection and forced Samir Handanovic into a fingertip save over the bar. Inter responded immediately and should have taken the lead when Lukaku got his head on a Candreva cross, only for the ball to bounce off the crossbar and back out.
Replays showed Conte yelling in disbelief, and his cries only intensified when Marcelo Brozovic fired a thunderbolt from distance that smacked the crossbar with Onderj Kolar rooted to the spot.
Inter nearly threw it all away when Brozovic’s poor pass for Valero was intercepted, allowing Masopust to walk in on goal, but Handanovic saved the day with an excellent stop with his feet.
? | FULL-TIME
It wasn't easy but we've got the job done ?
— Inter (@Inter_en) November 27, 2019
After Lautaro fired just wide of the mark while barreling in on goal, Lukaku was finally rewarded for his work and broke the deadlock.
A through ball by substitute Valentino Lazaro was dummied by Lautaro and looked to be controlled by Frydrych, however the Czech defender slipped, allowing Lukaku to dribble past an on rushing Kolar and fire home with anger to the delight of a jubilant Inter bench.
Slavia should have equalized when Soucek failed to fire home from five yards out, and it proved costly as Inter wrapped up proceedings soon after.
Lukaku crossed from the right with the outside of his left boot, and Lautaro thumped home a sumptuous right-footed volley to put Inter second in the group thanks to Barcelona’s 3-1 victory over Borussia Dortmund.