Inter departed Kiev’s Olympic Stadium on Tuesday evening scarcely believing that they had only left with a goalless draw against Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League.
It leaves Antonio Conte’s side third in the standings behind Shakhtar and Borussia Moenchengladbach, as fellow favourites Real Madrid incredibly prop up Group B with a single point.
More than misfortune to blame
On another night Inter would have headed back west with three goals and three points in the bag, but for Nicolo Barella’s early volley and a Romelu Lukaku freekick rattling the crossbar. Lautaro Martinez, meanwhile, will be playing his dreadful close-range miss over in his mind for the next week.
Similarly, Lukaku had strong claims for a spot-kick turned down after being dragged to the ground by Valeriy Bondar, but bad luck does not tell the full story.
With Shakhtar struggling to find rhythm following an early injury to striker Dentinho, Inter ought to have turned the screw and forced a way in, but instead they dropped off the pace and allowed Shakhtar all the time in the world to reorganise and keep them at bay.
After a dominant first half, the dip in tempo and intensity was alarming and Inter’s failure to take the match by the scruff of the neck ultimately cost them the three points.
Pressure is on in Madrid
Inter’s failure to record a win against the seemingly more manageable opponents in their group, namely Gladbach and Shakhtar, only adds to the pressure in their double-header against Real Madrid, starting in the Spanish capital.
Whilst the Blancos were stunned in their own backyard by a Shakhtar squad decimated by a COVID-19 outbreak, and were within minutes of losing to Gladbach, Zinedine Zidane’s side have the capability to punish Inter if they show the lack of cutting edge on display in Ukraine.
Defeats to the Spanish champions could leave the Nerazzurri’s ambitions hanging in the balance, and Conte may yet rue failing to pick up more than two points from these opening encounters.