Thuram fires wasteful Inter past Benfica

On what was very nearly a night of frustration for a profligate Inter, Marcus Thuram was the Nerazzurri's hero as his strike earned them a 1-0 win over Benfica in the Champions League.

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STADIO GIUSEPPE MEAZZA (Milan) – Inter claimed their first win of the 2023/24 Champions League season on Tuesday night as a second-half strike from Marcus Thuram was enough to see them past Benfica with a 1-0 win, though Simone Inzaghi‘s side could and should have enjoyed a more comfortable margin of victory on the night.

Thuram eventually found a way to goal after the Nerazzurri had been guilty of passing up a number of opportunities, with Denzel Dumfries responsible for more than his fair share of those. The French no.9 was bright throughout his 73 minutes on the pitch, though, and was a worthy match-winner by the end.

Inter players celebrate in the Champions League. [@Inter_en]

In the absence of away supporters in Milan, it was hard to escape the feeling that something was missing as the first half unfolded, without much ever happening. Although some somewhat nibbly challenges went in from both sides, the feeling around the Meazza was a far cry from when the two sides met in last season’s quarter-final. Then, a section of the visiting Benfica fans overstepped the mark by launching flare after flare into the first and second blue tiers in the south end of the stadium.

Inter‘s Curva Nord were as vocal as ever, from the pre-match choreography to the deafening whistling of both Angel Di Maria and Joao Mario‘s names as the Benfica team was announced before kick-off. That, though, never really transfered into the on-field performance. In the best of the early action, Denzel Dumfries slightly overhit a cross from the right with Nicolo Barella, Lautaro Martinez and Henrikh Mkhitaryan all free in the centre and waiting to finish. In the end, the latter slid in an attempt to get a shot on target but to no avail and the chance came to nothing.

Inter’s Curva Nord with a choreography ahead of their Champions League group stage game against Benfica. (@Inter)

Marcus Thuram was always looking to be direct when he had the ball, and was the most positive Nerazzurri player, while Lautaro struggled to show the same sharpness that saw him score four last time out against Salernitana. Dumfries himself had another chance but was unable to come close to threatening Anatoily Trubin in the Benfica goal, and thee was a slight sense of vulnerability about Simone Inzaghi‘s side whenever the Portuguese outfit ventured forward.

The Nerazzurri came out for the second half with more intent, and they should have led when Dumfries climbed high at the back post, arriving from the right, to meet a ball that had just evaded Thuram, but the Dutchman couldn’t direct his header on target in front of an expectant Curva Nord, instead firing wide. Lautaro then came close seconds later as his improvised effort came back down off the crossbar and Thuram‘s follow-up attempt was blocked.

Marcus Thuram celebrates a Champions League goal for Inter. (@Inter)

Lautaro struck the woodwork again moments after. Some fine footwork from Thuram and a perfect ball slipped through the Benfica backline set the Argentine in, but his thumped effort crashed back off the near post.

Thuram then took matters into his own hands. As Inter fans all around the ground held up their phone torches, the Nerazzurri found a path that led them to goal. With Dumfries sent to the byline on the right, the Frenchman cleverly checked his run in the box and the wing-back pulled back to his feet. From there, Thuram made absolutely no mistake in firing past Trubin, sparking an eruption at the Meazza.

Thuram‘s strike was exactly what the game needed to inject real life into it. The crowd reacted to Inter‘s lead and the noise levels were raised. Federico Dimarco momentarily looked to have doubled their lead shortly after, but the offside flag cut his celebrations short.

Lautaro went close again after rounding Trubin but his attempt was then blocked, and the goalkeeper made a fine stop to deny the Inter captain in the 86th minute.

Although it could have been a much smoother and more straightforward victory for Inter on the night, Inzaghi will end the evening pleased that they were able to keep pace with Real Sociedad after the Basque side’s earlier win, leaving both on four points at the top of Champions League Group D, with RB Salzburg on three behind them.

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