Champions League: Inter Milan 1 – 0 Benfica

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In a crucial Champions League clash at the Meazza, Inter got their campaign back on track with a resounding 1-0 victory over Benfica, thanks to a second-half strike by Thuram, set up brilliantly by Dumfries. The match, which began as a relatively balanced affair, saw Inter emerge as the dominant force after the halftime break.

Inter’s manager, Inzaghi, stuck with a familiar starting lineup, with Pavard, Acerbi, and Bastoni forming the defensive trio, and a midfield featuring the formidable trio of Barella, Calhanoglu, and Mkhitaryan. The wingbacks and strikers were the usual suspects.

On the opposing side, Schmidt opted for a more attack-minded approach, with Neres leading the line and Di Maria and Silva providing width from the wings. Interestingly, former Inter player Joao Mario remained on the bench throughout the match.

The first half saw both teams trying to find their rhythm, with Inter looking to exploit counterattacks. While Inter had a few chances, none truly tested Benfica’s goalkeeper, Trubin. Notably, Dumfries had a headed effort go over the bar, and he also sent another shot high, while Barella’s attempt was saved by Trubin in the 43rd minute. Benfica had their best opportunity in the 13th minute when a lapse in concentration from Inter on a throw-in allowed Aurnes to go one-on-one with Sommer, who made an excellent save to keep the score level.

At halftime, Benfica held a slight possession advantage of 53% to 47%, but Inter had more shots, outshooting their opponents 5 to 3, with a higher expected goals (xG) value of 0.66 to 0.18.

The second half was a different story, as Inter came out with renewed determination and began to dominate proceedings. However, they squandered numerous scoring opportunities. Dumfries missed a header in the 53rd minute, and Lautaro struck the crossbar just two minutes later. In the 59th minute, Lautaro’s shot was deflected wide for a corner, and in the 61st minute, he hit the post after an excellent play and pass from Thuram.

Finally, the deadlock was broken in the 62nd minute. Barella launched a precise long ball that Dumfries chased down, pulling it back for Thuram, who made no mistake in drilling the ball into the net. Despite the breakthrough, Inter continued to miss chances, with Mhkitarian shooting wide in the 64th minute, and Dimarco scoring a disallowed goal in the 65th for offside. Lautaro had a clear breakaway opportunity in the 74th minute but chose to dribble around Trubin, only to have his shot cleared by Otemendi just before it crossed the line. In quick succession, Lautaro had another chance saved by Trubin, and Inter kept pushing for more goals.

In the final minutes, Lautaro had yet another shot saved, and Benfica’s header off a corner found Sommer’s safe hands. After five minutes of stoppage time, the referee blew the final whistle, securing Inter the well-deserved three points.

Inter’s second-half dominance was evident in the statistics, as they outshot Benfica 16 to 3, had six big chances, and hit the woodwork twice. Benfica, on the other hand, failed to threaten Sommer’s goal throughout the match. This win marked an important step forward for Inter in their Champions League campaign.

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