Inter’s Champions League got off to a very shaky start, as only Nicolò Barella’s stoppage-time volley prevented a home defeat to Slavia Prague.
The Nerazzurri opened their European campaign by hosting champions of the Czech Republic Slavia Prague, which was a must-win game considering the group also included Barcelona and Borussia Dortmund. Romelu Lukaku passed a fitness test after a back problem to partner Lautaro Martinez, while Roberto Gagliardini was the only real change. Slavia had a full squad to choose from, with only Ladislav Takacs carrying a knock, but dropped Milan Skoda in favour of Peter Olayinka and Josef Husbauer in a more mobile 4-4-2.
The visitors dominated possession early doors, but Inter created the chances, as Stefan de Vrij didn’t realise the time and space he had for a free header on Stefano Sensi’s set play, turning it over the bar from six yards.
Lautaro Martinez then drilled inches wide after Danilo D’Ambrosio won back possession in midfield, while Sensi needed a last-ditch tackle as Nicolae Stanciu was pulling the trigger on the edge of the box.
D’Ambrosio had an identical chance to De Vrij and his free header was at least on target, albeit parried by Ondrej Kolar, but other than from free kicks, Inter struggled to create danger.
The Nerazzurri had a huge opportunity within seconds of the restart, as Kolar palmed a Candreva cross-shot into the path of Lautaro Martinez, then scrambled to save from point-blank range.
Candreva went off with a back injury moments later, giving Valentino Lazaro his Inter debut. Handanovic smothered a Stanciu strike, but there was some tension at San Siro during a VAR review for potential red card, although ultimately Kwadwo Asamoah’s tackle on Ibrahim Traore was judged to be only a bookable offence.
Slavia Prague took a shock lead on 64 minutes. Olayinka got to the by-line and pulled back for substitute Jaroslav Zeleny, whose shot was met by a miraculous Handanovic save at the base of the near post, but the captain could do nothing on the Olayinka follow-up.
Rather than react, Inter risked conceding a second goal, with Lukas Masopust firing off target from the edge of the box, then Milan Skriniar needed a desperate block on unmarked Jan Boril’s effort from 12 yards.
D’Ambrosio was Inter’s most dangerous player, as he forced his second save of the game with a snapshot from distance, but Skriniar’s attempt was barely worthy of being called a chance.
There were eight minutes of stoppages awarded and Inter took full advantage to get back on level terms. Matteo Politano earned a free kick and Sensi’s curler bounced off the crossbar, but Nicolò Barella watched it come down and hit a right-foot volley into the ground that bounced into the far bottom corner from 15 yards.
There was also time for a fingertip save on Lukaku’s header, although the offside flag had been raised.
Inter 1-1 Slavia Prague
Olayinka 65 (S), Sensi 92 (I)
Inter: Handanovic; D'Ambrosio, De Vrij, Skriniar; Candreva (Lazaro 49), Gagliardini, Brozovic (Barella 71), Sensi, Asamoah; R Lukaku, Lautaro Martinez (Politano 71)
Slavia Prague: Kolar; Coufal, Kudela, Hovorka, Boril; Soucek, Husbauer, Traore (Zeleny 59), Stanciu; Masopust (Yusuf Helal 79), Olayinka (Provo 85)
Ref: Buquet (FRA)
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