It wasn’t pretty and it definitely wasn’t easy, but Inter finally reached the last eight of a European competition for the first time since 2010-11. Antonio Conte was right to predict that the Nerazzurri would be in for a “dirty game against a tough opponent” and this is exactly what their Round of 16 clash with Getafe proved to be.
La Beneamata started off slowly and allowed the Spaniards too much space in the first minutes and this almost cost them dearly. Samir Handanovic proved to be decisive once again, as the Inter captain made a fantastic save on Nemanja Maksimovic’s header, while his decision to wait until the last possible moment for his dive seemed to affect Jorge Molina’s shot and resulted in Getafe’s penalty miss in the second half.
Inter should be credited for pouncing on their chances and scoring during arguably the opponent’s best stretches of the game. Romelu Lukaku’s strike ended Getafe’s early assault, while Christian Eriksen’s goal practically wrapped up the victory, only six minutes after the Spaniards had missed from the spot.
The ability to soak up pressure and score against the run of play is clearly a sign of maturity, but no one can deny that the Nerazzurri had their bit of luck against Getafe. Although Conte’s troops managed to ride the storm in this game, they should be more careful and avoid such mini-crises against better oppositions.
Without disrespecting Getafe, who regardless of what their latest results may suggest, are a good side, Inter will simply face stronger opponents in the later stages of the competition. The Nerazzurri will most likely play Bayer Leverkusen next, as the Germans hold a comfortable 3-1 advantage from the first leg against Steven Gerrard’s Rangers.
Just like Inter, Leverkusen joined the Europa League after finishing third in their Champions League group, where they were simply outclassed by Juventus and Atletico Madrid. However, Peter Bosz’s men can’t be taken lightly, as they can count on wonderkid Kai Havertz and have much better individual quality than Getafe overall.
However, the ‘dirty’ win against the Spaniards should give Conte and his men enough confidence for whoever comes next, as there were plenty of positives to be taken. Lukaku once again proved to be a difference maker and equalled Alan Shearer’s record of finding the net in eight consecutive Europa/UEFA Cup games, while Eriksen seems to be much more suited for European encounters than domestic ones at this stage.
The Dane, alongside an Alexis Sanchez who is set to remain permanently, can prove to be the hidden aces in Conte’s sleeve, as not even Manchester United can count on such high-profile players coming from the bench.
The Red Devils, alongside the winner of Sevilla-Roma, seem like the strongest contenders for the trophy, but teams such as Wolverhampton, Shakhtar Donetsk and Leverkusen will also fancy their chances.
However, no team can be underestimated at this stage, as the Europa League has often been a competition of upsets. Many times we’ve seen stronger teams eliminated at the hands of the supposed underdogs and unfortunately Italians have often been on the wrong end of that trend. The current one-legged format makes things even trickier, but Conte and his men passed their first post-pandemic European test against Getafe, who were a potential banana skin.
The toughest part for the Nerazzurri is yet to come, but their victory against the Spaniards both showcased some of the areas of improvement, as well as the quality of this Inter squad. It’s now up to Conte and the players to avoid the drops of concentration and intensity that could’ve cost them dearly against Getafe. However, the general feeling is that despite the flaws in their last display, Inter have what it takes to go all the way and win the Europa League.
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