As Lautaro Martinez pointed both fingers to the sky, the relief left his body like he had just been exorcised. The goal was the work of two master craftsmen, Nicolo Barella’s flick on was majestic and the finish was exceptional. The Argentinian had needed that goal as it ended a five game streak without netting. This had made many press outlets question if the team is too dependent on Romelu Lukaku but now he is back amongst the goals, is there a possibility of Inter’s form changing?
In recent weeks, the performances of Antonio Conte’s team have been so predictable that the criticism of them also begins to sound the same, week in, week out. Inter’s last gasp 3-2 defeat was frustrating for the team as despite going two goals down, they showed character and pulled level before conceding late to Real. The game showed all the signs of recent weeks, defensive mistakes, switching off on set pieces, poor passing, a strike force that was not clinical enough and Samir Handanovic’s inability to play out from the back.
Even so, Martinez summed up what many said in interviews after the match when he spoke to Sky Sport Italia. He claimed the team were angry and they felt they did everything to win, he claimed they created a lot and could have completed the task in hand. Even though he had his goal, he was conscious that the forward department was not up to standards and bemoaned the fact that the work rate and effort is always there but there are too many mistakes.
Maybe it was Madrid’s Alfredo Di Stefano training ground stadium that created the effect but the game really did feel like a practice game. Both sides were terrible in possession and countless passes were misplaced. It is perhaps the only time when Real Madrid and Inter have faced each other, that you could hear the beeps of a truck reversing in the background. The fact was, the game statistically was fairly even but Inter missed some cutting edge. It was unfortunate that Achraf Hakimi got cold feet when returning to his former team and not only was he culpable for one of the goals but his efforts on the right did not give Martinez the service he deserved, despite 45% of all Inter’s attacking play coming from that side.
Lautaro has been struggling, his outburst after being substituted against Genoa saw him punch his seat repeatedly, not because he was annoyed at being substituted but rather that he had played poorly. The goal against Madrid should do him the world of good and as strikers are always going to be victims of confidence this could be a shining light for Inter. They are certainly missing Lukaku. The Belgian has seven goals in seven games and could also be out for the upcoming clash against Atalanta, however, with now Martinez back on track and Ivan Perisic getting two goals in two (even if not adjusted to the center forward role yet) things look positive. Alexis Sanchez’s cameo against Madrid also brings hope.
It is vital for Inter to have the partnership between Lukaku and Martinez rekindled, as last year they were incredibly destructive to the opposition. Conte is certainly not moving from the way he plays and so it is left for Inter to make the most of their strengths. They netted 55 goals between them in all competitions and many times, they assisted each other, Inter still need to fix some defensive issues and cut out mistakes but at the moment it looks like their best ploy is to try and outscore the opposition.
The revival of Lautaro seems the most logical lifeline for Conte, especially in the Champions League, as wins against Madrid, Borussia Monchengladbach and Shakhtar Donetsk are now being critical. There is first a very tough task on the horizon for Inter as they face a wounded Atalanta before the international break descends. Perhaps the last words should be left with Lautaro when he said. “We have to work with our heads down, no words. We have to do the best for Inter without thinking about anything else.”