STADIO GIUSEPPE MEAZZA (Milan) – Inter had to settle for a second-place finish in their UEFA Champions League group as they were held on a goalless draw by a stubborn Real Sociedad that sealed the top spot as a result of a better goal difference.
In a game that was short of goal-scoring opportunities, the visitors’ tactical organisation once again paid off as they effectively hindered Inter’s dangerousness mostly by retaining possession and keeping them away from goal.
On the other side, the Nerazzurri focused on keeping things in balance for the opening 60 minutes with a view to mounting a final wave of attacks that, however, was well-tamed by the Spanish side, which will force the Biscione to be drawn against one of the other group winners in the competitions next Monday.
Real Sociedad’s possession bears little fruit
Real Sociedad‘s aggressiveness and intensity had caused Inter all sorts of trouble back in the group stage’s opening game and, once again, they didn’t hesitate to take initiative and bring men forward despite only needing a draw to go through as top of the group.
The visitors’ attempt to lure Inter’s pressure and play through the resulting gaps was also clear from the opening exchanges, with their goalkeeper and defenders patiently moving the ball around and standing still for up to four or five seconds until a home player would jump on the ball carrier.
La Real’s high-pressing made it hard for Inter to develop their usual well-worked plays and forced them to keep a more cautious approach, trying to explore spaces on the counter.
While this prevented the Spanish outfit from threatening Yann Sommer‘s goal, despite their huge share of possession, Inter’s first real chance also came after 35 minutes as Henrikh Mkhitaryan‘s header flew over the bar.
Harmless Inter finish second as Real Sociedad keep them out
The roar and chant that accompanied the start of Lautaro Martinez‘s warm-up marked the only relevant moment of a slow-paced opening 15 minutes of the second half, at the end of which Inter failed to capitalise on a dangerous counter-attack led by Francesco Acerbi and Marcus Thuram.
The simultaneous entrances of Lautaro, Nicolo Barella and Marko Arnautovic in the 65th were arguably evidence of Simone Inzaghi’s game plan, which involved adding some firepower in the final stretch of the match to find a late breakthrough.
However, a harmless header from Lautaro was all the hosts could produce and the biggest thrill even came from the opposite end of the pitch, with a penalty initially awarded for a potential foul on Takefusa Kubo was revoked after the VAR review highlighted the Japanese player’s dive.
Goalkeeper Alejandro Remiro had little to do in the closing minutes as he comfortably watched his teammates clear every potential danger to earn their side a deserved qualification as group winners for the round of 16.