STADIO GIUSEPPE MEAZZA (Milan) – Inter didn’t waste the chance to book a place in the Champions League knockout stage as they thrashed Viktoria Plzen 4-0 on Wednesday evening, sending their Group C rivals Barcelona into the Europa League.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Edin Dzeko gave the Nerazzurri a two-goal lead in the first half, before two more were added after the break by the Bosnian himself and Romelu Lukaku, who found his first goal with his first match in the competition this season.
Tense start for Inter
In a city renowned for its fast-paced lifestyle, it seemed odd to see so many bikes, scooters and cars rush to the stadium at 18:00, a time at which employees are usually just leaving the office to head home, but it was a testament to the magnitude of the game the Nerazzurri were about to face.
However, it took the home players some time to settle into such an electric atmosphere, as they struggled to hold their nerves in the opening minutes, misplacing passes and making some hasty decisions.
The Nerazzurri started knocking midway through the first half, when Federico Dimarco was denied by Jindrich Stanek from close range, before neither him nor Lautaro Martinez were able to make the most of the follow-up chances.
Goals coming thick and fast
It was Henrikh Mkhitaryan who eventually broke Viktoria Plzen’s resistance, as he was found at the back post by Alessandro Bastoni, who made the most of a nice link up with Dimarco to reach the byline and chip in a ball that the Armenian headed home for his second consecutive goal in the Nerazzurri shirt.
Just five minutes later, the hosts only needed three touches to double their advantage – Nicolò Barella’s excellent cross-field pass was volleyed into the box by Dimarco, presenting Dzeko with an easy chance to make it two.
Inter looked even more confident and determined after the break, a third goal was looking very likely. It came from Dzeko again, as the Bosnian was teed up by Martinez and he slotted the ball home.
The fourth goal from substitute Lukaku, who was back after missing several games since late August due to a thigh injury, was the icing on the cake for Simone Inzaghi’s side, who managed to secure back-to-back qualifications to the Champions League Round of 16 for the first time in 10 years.