Three takeaways from Inter 2-1 RB Salzburg: Alexis and Calhanoglu shine, but the Nerazzurri cannot become complacent

The performances of Alexis Sanchez and Hakan Calhanoglu edged Inter past Salzburg on Matchday 3 of the 2023/24 Champions League group stages, but the visitors showed plenty for the Nerazzurri to fear when they meet in Austria.

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Serie A leaders Inter took another step towards progression from 2023/24 Champions League Group D, after a narrow 2-1 win over RB Salzburg at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on Matchday 3, with Real Sociedad only above the Nerazzurri on goal difference.

The visitors made a decent start to the match, but Alexis Sanchez netted the first goal of his second spell to give the Nerazzurri a first-half lead in Milan. However, an excellent team move on 57 minutes ended with Oscar Gloukh firing past Inter goalkeeper Yann Sommer to equalise.

When Davide Frattesi attempted to control the ball just yards from goal moments later, though, a wayward Salzburg boot fouled the Italian international and allowed teammate Hakan Calhanoglu to fire home confidently from the penalty spot.

No room for Inter complacency

Although Inter ultimately had too much for Salzburg and the Austrians have already lost at home Group D challengers Sociedad, they came close to denying the Nerazzurri three valuable points and coach Simone Inzaghi will fear the threat they pose when they reconvene on Matchday 4.

Their Stadion Salzburg home has been as important as the investment on the pitch during their decade-long domination of their domestic championship, and coach Gerhard Struber will look to merge home advantage with the confidence the side will take from their performance in Milan.

Although Salzburg are now four points behind the Nerazzurri and Benfica sit bottom without a point after three consecutive defeats, the Serie A giants must not take anything for granted.

Alexis Sanchez still has something to offer Inter

Inter’s Alexis Sanchez celebrates. [@Inter_en]

After leaving the Nerazzurri during the summer of 2022, few Inter fans would have continued to follow the career of Alexis Sanchez. However, after 18 goals in 44 games in all competitions for Marseille last term, it was made clear that the 35-year-old still has plenty to offer.

The Chilean may have struggled to reach double figures in each of his previous three seasons with the Nerazzurri. The clinical finishing seen throughout his career was present once more in the first-time strike against Salzburg, though, and will be vital when lifting some of the burden from Marcus Thuram and Lautaro Martinez.

Hakan Calhanoglu is growing into his new, deeper midfield role

Inter’s Hakan Calhanoglu celebrates. [@Inter_en]

With Marcelo Brozovic having sought a new challenge in the Saudi Pro League with Al Nassr immediately after the heartache of 2022/23 Champions League final defeat to Manchester City, Inter have turned to Calhanoglu to fill the void at the base of their five-man midfield.

It is a role that the 29-year-old appears to have thrived in since the beginning of the current campaign and, even against a youthful Salzburg side, controlled much of the game through his excellent positional sense and ball distribution.

Edge-of-the-box stunners might be a little less frequent from the former AC Milan midfielder, but his delivery from set-pieces and nerves of steal from the penalty spot will continue to provide more than enough attacking contribution to the team.

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