Lautaro Martinez bagged a brace and Romelu Lukaku scored his first Champions League goal for Inter in a potentially decisive 3-1 win away to Slavia Prague.
The Nerazzurri needed a victory to keep their qualification hopes alive, but while Slavia had lost their last three European home fixtures, their only points so far were draws at Inter and Barcelona. Nicolò Barella, Stefano Sensi, Kwadwo Asamoah and Alexis Sanchez were injured, so Borja Valero got his first start of the season. The hosts missed David Hovorka, but Tomas Soucek, Petr Sevcik and Lucas Masopust passed fitness tests.
It was an aggressive start from the hosts, as Josef Husbauer’s header flashed just wide of the near post, while Lautaro Martinez turned off target on the turn.
Inter broke through with their front pairing combining once again. Romelu Lukaku burst down the right and pulled back for Lautaro Martinez, who took it first time into the roof of the net from seven yards. It was the Argentine’s fourth Champions League game in a row on target.
However, Slavia threatened on several occasions, as Frydrych’s free header and a Husbauer volley went very close.
Lukaku thought he’d finally scored his first Champions League goal of the season when Lautaro Martinez intercepted a poor Frydrych back-pass and rolled it across for the Belgian to score. However, a VAR check called back the referee, who saw Stefan de Vrij had fouled Olayinka in the box previously, so the Inter goal was wiped out and instead Slavia Prague received a penalty.
Tomas Soucek converted, as Slavia went from 2-0 down to 1-1 in the space of two minutes.
Marcelo Brozovic fired over from the edge of the box after a strong run, while Handanovic flew to fingertip a deflected Masopust strike over the bar.
Lukaku came so close to his first Champions League goal for Inter, as Candreva got away from a defender with a sombrero flick and whipped in the cross only for the Belgian’s free header to clip the crossbar.
Moments later, Brozovic also rattled the woodwork with his ferocious effort, which left the goalkeeper rooted to the spot.
Handanovic had to come to the rescue when Borja Valero was caught in possession on a Brozovic pass and the goalkeeper stuck out a leg to deny Masopust one-on-one.
Lautaro Martinez’s chest and volley whistled inches wide, as did another attempt set up by Lukaku’s knockdown.
Inter restored their lead with a goal that resembled rugby more than football. Valentino Lazaro’s through ball was flicked on by Lautaro Martinez for Lukaku, but Frydrych slipped, allowing the Belgian to charge halfway up the field on his own, go around the ‘keeper and deposit into an empty net. It was, finally, his first Inter Champions League goal.
Slavia Prague should’ve equalised moments later, but Soucek somehow prodded wide from five yards after a free kick was not dealt with.
Lautaro Martinez made sure the points were safe with another well-taken strike. Lukaku won back the ball, whipped in a cross from the right with the outside of the boot and Lautaro hit it on the volley with his right foot into the near top corner.
It still wasn’t over, as deep into stoppages Lukaku controlled a cross-field pass and drilled through the defender’s legs into the near bottom corner. However, VAR struck again to disallow for offside.
Slavia Prague 1-3 Inter
Lautaro Martinez, 88 19 (I), Souceck pen 35 (S), Lukaku 81 (I)
Slavia Prague: Kolar; Coufal, Frydrych, Kudela, Boril; Soucek, Husbauer (Zeleny 70); Masopust, Stanciu (Traore 58), Sevcik; Olayinka
Inter: Handanovic; Skriniar, De Vrij, Godin; Candreva, Vecino (Esposito 80), Brozovic, Borja Valero (Gagliardini 77), Biraghi (Lazaro 77); R Lukaku, Lautaro Martinez
Ref: Marciniak (POL)
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