The night started with 65,000 bright lights welcoming Inter into the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, but the team left the field in darkness. The 1-1 draw with PSV saw the Milanese drop into the Europa League after Tottenham Hotspur matched their result in Spain. Whilst it was a game of regrets, it was a campaign that the Nerazzurri could be relatively proud of and has shown that Luciano Spalletti’s men can compete at this level. The focus will now move to the league and qualifying for the competition again.
No matter what the result in Barcelona, Inter entered the game knowing that they could still make their fans proud if they beat PSV. The Milanese had to simply concentrate on the game in hand and ignore what was going on in Barcelona. Sporting director Piero Ausilio had made this very point to Sky Italia before the game, as he explained that if they could end the game with 10 points, then they could look back on their European campaign with pride. Inter had waited a long time for their return to Europe’s elite competition and their participation had to be looked at in context. They had competed in a tough group and taken it to the wire.
The Nerazzurri started with intent and with a high tempo that they have failed to do in some important games this season. Often they have tried to cope with high pressing teams by trying to absorb the pressure and them implement their strategy later in the game, but not tonight. Luciano Spalletti’s team, perhaps as PSV pressed unconvincingly, bettered the Dutch for intensity and when out of possession they were quick to win it back. Kwadwo Asamoah’s mistake, however, allowed PSV to score out of nothing and cancel out Barcelona’s early lead against Spurs.
Inter threw everything at the visitors in the second half and the Dutch team threw everything they could back at the Milanese. It was a game of missed chances, not enough clear-cut ones for Inter. Mauro Icardi’s goal gave hope but it wasn’t enough as Barcelona only drew. Despite how the game ended, mistakes were many, especially after PSV had originally found the goal. The high tempo and well-worked press turned into a frenetic panic, this allowed the Dutch to take part in an end-to-end game where each team seemed to consistently counter the other. The Nerazzurri needed, but failed, to gain a long period of possession and they continued to make the wrong decisions in the final third. Even at the end of the game when the chances came, they were simply not clinical enough.
Inter can look at the campaign with pride as performances against Tottenham Hotspur and Barcelona had stood out and they certainly did not embarrass themselves. They are still a work in progress and Icardi’s performances proved they have a player who many in Europe will and do fear. The most important thing for the Nerazzurri, will be qualifying for next year’s Champions League and not in such dramatic fashion as seen in Rome in May 2018. They will truly be judged on their ability to continue to qualify repeatedly, every season for this competition as this will signal progression.
Inter now drop into the Europa League as their journey continues and this could also potentially give their fans some more exciting (if hopefully more fruitful) European nights. Spalletti will have learned much about his squad by the end of the season as he has had to fight on two fronts and this will potentially see him look to strengthen in January.
Inter will be frustrated about the nature of the way they have exited the Champions League, as they came so close. PSV proved tough opponents in all but one of their group games and overall Inter can feel that they were unlucky in the end. The flip side, is that in their last two games they had chances to go through. The group will learn from that though, and this season’s experience will be invaluable.
The reaction will initially be that Inter threw this game away, and to some extent they did. They will also look at this however, as the start of a new beginning where they can continually fight to be part of and go far in the Champions League. Yes, they haven’t exited at the group stages since 2003 but put into context they have spent a long time out of the competition. This then puts into perspective what they have achieved in recent years. The lights may have gone out tonight, but it’s only temporary.