Inter will feel regrets after their 0-0 draw away to Eintracht Frankfurt, as Kevin Trapp saved Marcelo Brozovic’s penalty in the first leg of the Europa League Round of 16.
The Nerazzurri needed a boost in Europe after losing to Cagliari and sliding out of the top three in Serie A. Mauro Icardi was still unavailable, officially due to a knee injury, but not having featured since he was suddenly stripped of the captaincy. Radja Nainggolan and Keita Balde Diao were injured, with Roberto Gagliardini, Joao Mario and Dalbert not on the UEFA list. Ante Rebic was a big loss for the hosts, who beat Lazio home and away in the group phase, were still unbeaten in the Europa League this season and were the tournament’s top scorers with 23 goals in eight games. Mijat Gacinovic stepped in to the trequartista role instead behind star strikers Sebastien Haller and Luka Jovic.
It was Coach Luciano Spalletti’s 60th birthday and the team got off to a bright start, Filip Kostic booked within four minutes for bringing down Matteo Politano on the edge of the box.
Inter went close with a free kick, as Stefan de Vrij’s header flicked it on just beyond Danilo D’Ambrosio at the back post.
Lautaro Martinez was awarded a very soft penalty, as he pounced on a loose ball and seemed to jut out his foot on purpose to connect with Gelson Fernandes. It was a form of justice when Marcelo Brozovic saw the resulting spot-kick saved by Kevin Trapp. On the following corner, Milan Skriniar’s back-heel flick forced another impressive Trapp interception.
Lautaro and Kwadwo Asamoah were booked and will be suspended for the second leg at San Siro. Matias Vecino only grazed his head to a fantastic Politano volleyed cross, sending it wide from seven yards. At the other end, Asamoah bravely intercepted a Sebastien Haller cross for Rode.
Eintracht started the second half stronger and hit the back of the net on 51 minutes with Evan N’Dicka, but Haller was in an offside position and interfering with play, as he was inches away from getting the final touch right in front of Samir Handanovic.
The hosts were furious moments later, as Haller went down after D’Ambrosio seemed to bump into him from behind, but the referee waved away penalty appeals. If the first was a spot-kick, then this seemed very similar, if not worse.
The German pressure continued and Handanovic smothered a Jovic free header and Perisic limped off with a muscular problem. Replacement Antonio Candreva was booked for handball within 10 seconds. Gelson Fernandes was carded and he will be suspended for the second leg at San Siro.
Da Costa’s header from a free kick was straight at Handanovic, but Martin Hinteregger wasted a golden opportunity with his free header incredibly wide from close range after ghosting to the back post.
Moments later, Handanovic got down to parry a long-range Hinteregger strike, then the captain did well for a one-handed save to fingertip Jovic’s precise angled drive out of the far bottom corner.
It was turning into a siege, Goncalo Paciencia skipping past Skriniar for a dangerous ball that flashed all the way across the face of goal, but the Nerazzurri emerged with a goalless stalemate from this passionate atmosphere.
Eintracht 0-0 Inter
Eintracht Frankfurt: Trapp; Hinteregger, Hasebe, N’Dicka; Da Costa, Rode (Willems 77), Fernandes (Paciencia 79), Kostic; Gacinovic; Haller, Jovic
Inter: Handanovic; D'Ambrosio, De Vrij, Skriniar, Asamoah; Vecino, Brozovic; Politano, Borja Valero (Cedric 79), Perisic (Candreva 58); Lautaro Martinez
Ref: Collum (SCO)
Saved penalty: Brozovic 22 (I)