Inter Let Down By Wastefulness
I watched Inter vs Liverpool without much hope of Inter being able to win the tie and advance to the next stage of the Champions League. I watched it to support the team from afar on a sofa chair in Singapore in the wee hours of Thursday morning. All I asked for was for my team to give a good account of themselves and not let themselves down.
Based on what I saw, I would say they did give a good account of themselves in a tie where we are not favourites to win and advance to the next round. But I also feel that this is not the real Inter, not the one that we see weekly in Serie A. Arguably, a draw would have been the fair result but we are sat here mulling over a defeat and what-ifs.
Inter dealt with the threat of facing Liverpool’s famed strike trio of Sadio Mane, Diogo Jota and Mohamed Salah well — Mane was substituted during the game and Jota was brought off at half-time. In the first half, I felt we were a bit nervous and cautious. We kept playing the ball back towards our goal allowing Liverpool to push up and press us in our half. There were moments in the game as well where we held on to the ball too long or our touch was heavy. The one good moment we had in attack nearly produced a goal; Hakan Calhanoglu’s effort crashed off the bar. Unlucky.
In the second half, the nervousness seemed to have been shaken off as we got on the front foot. We pinned Liverpool in their half but we didn’t capitalize on this period of supremacy. In that period, we got into many promising positions without making the most of it due to a combination of poor decision-making and very good Liverpool defending to make up for being exposed. If only Edin Dzeko was younger and faster on one occasion. If only, the ball had fallen nicely for us on other occasions.
Ifs and buts don’t win you games. It’s goals that win you games. Liverpool didn’t deserve to take the lead but in life, you don’t always get what you deserve. After we lost the lead, I could feel the confidence getting sucked out of the team and that is how Liverpool scored their second goal. I strongly believe that with greater confidence and determination, we would have prevented the second goal. If the first goal sucked the confidence out, the second one was just the final nail in the coffin. I didn’t feel for a moment, Inter could have scored a goal after we conceded. It would have taken something spectacular for Inter to score and get a boost of confidence.
Inter are the highest scorers in Serie A but it is ironic that despite that, they can be wasteful in front of goal. Take their latest defeat into account, had Inter been clinical, they would have beaten AC Milan before they could mount a comeback. In Europe, there appears to be a psychological barrier. In the Champions League, it is not enough just playing well against the likes of Real Madrid and Liverpool, you need to score and punish them because these teams take only a second to punish you.
In Serie A, Inter’s bench is heralded as being strong and many times opposition managers have pointed out the strength in depth we have to win a match. But in Europe, the quality we have is not enough. Liverpool’s bench made the difference. The players we were missing that would have added quality to our team were Nicolo Barella, Robin Gosens and arguably, Joaquin Correa.
We have players that are former winners of this competition like Arturo Vidal and Ivan Perisic. Perisic had a great game but Vidal was one of those guilty of making a poor decision in the final third when the chance presented itself. Alexis Sanchez is another that has played in this competition many times for big clubs and refers to himself as a lion but at this level, like his fellow Chilean, he looks like an old lion. Edin Dzeko has been great for us since he joined but at this level again, his age and lack of pace is left exposed. Overall, it is a good test against one of the favourites to win the competition and we know where we stand in the continent. There are gaps that the club’s management has to fill to bridge the gap with the best in Europe but realistically, the achievable target for the team is to achieve success in Italy. Anything less and it would be considered a failure.