Inzaghi and Inter finally made to pay for their wastefulness in the Champions League

Inter had been wasteful in a number of Champions League games this season, and Atletico Madrid made them pay as soon as it counted in the last 16. Now, Simone Inzaghi needs to get the Nerazzurri back on track.

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MADRID: The signs were all there, but the alarm bells eventually rang for Simone Inzaghi when it was too late for Inter against Atletico Madrid in the Champions League round of 16.

Inter‘s earlier-than-anticipated elimination at the hands of Diego Simeone‘s inspired Atletico side which leveraged the influence of their sell-out home crowd will leave last season’s Champions League finalists full of regrets.

Above anything else, it must teach Inter a lesson that they have to remember if they want to be considered one of Europe’s top sides who can feature consistently in the Champions League knockouts.

Inter’s Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Atletico Madrid’s Marcos Llorente do battle in the Champions League. (@Inter)

Inter failed to learn from first-leg mistakes

Inter‘s inability to build on Federico Dimarco‘s opener, a goal that had given them a comfortable 2-0 aggregate lead with 60 minutes remaining, and their wasteful second half added to a first-leg that was already marked by inefficiency in front of goal from the Nerazzurri.

Their slender 1-0 victory at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza didn’t reflect the quality of the performance during the full 90 minutes, with Inter looking dominant, especially in the second half. In hindsight, the wastefulness was a sign of how the tie would pan out.

“When you miss three big chances as we did in a Champions League game, you end up paying for it,” Simone Inzaghi said in the post-match press conference following his side’s elimination.

The truth is that Inter should have already learned from the first leg before the second began. They needed to be at their sharpest and most effective at the Estadio Civitas Metropolitano.

Instead, they looked fearful and disjointed throughout the game, something they could not afford in front of a roaring crowd that knew one goal would have been enough to change the momentum of the tie.

While Inzaghi claimed in his pre-match press conference that the Nerazzurri should be “ready to handle the difficult moments that we’ll be presented with”, his side seemed to do quite the opposite.

The poor timing of Atletico Madrid’s goals

Inter arguably conceded in the two worst possible moments of the game – first when they just needed to go 10 minutes longer to be 2-0 up on aggregate at half-time, and then in the final throws of the 90 minutes when they were within touching distance of the quarter-finals.

In both cases, avoiding a goal would’ve massively changed the course of the tie but the goals came in spells where Inter were crumbling under the pressure and sense of responsibility posed by the occasion.

Similarly, a more comfortable advantage from the first leg would’ve inevitably affected Atletico‘s game plan. Unlike in competitions with a round-robin format, where the three points are all that matter, the Champions League knockouts offer no second chances and missed opportunities will be punished.

Atletico Madrid’s Memphis Depay celebrates scoring in the Champions League against Inter. (@Atleti)

Inzaghi stressed after the match that his players “should be proud of their Champions League showing” and he’s probably right to praise a team that returned to the quarter-finals after 12 years away last season under his management.

At the same time, Inzaghi said that “the defeat has to hurt” and for one specific reason – Inter were knocked out of the Champions League not because they were inferior to their opponents, but because they failed to capitalise on moments of superiority, and withered when the going got tough. It is a lesson they should not forget for the future.

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