Romelu Lukaku stepped up with a decisive brace in Germany, giving Inter the 3-2 victory away to group leaders Borussia Monchengladbach to keep Champions League hopes alive.
The Nerazzurri would not only be out of the Champions League if they didn’t win here, but also miss third place and the Europa League, because Shakhtar Donetsk beat Real Madrid 2-0 in the earlier kick-off.
Marcelo Brozovic returned after COVID, but Arturo Vidal was suspended after his red card against Real Madrid, with Radja Nainggolan, Aleksandar Kolarov, Matias Vecino and Andrea Pinamonti injured. Matteo Darmian was preferred to Achraf Hakimi, while Valentino Lazaro started against his parent club.
Lautaro Martinez had a double chance charged down by Jantschke on the Darmian cross, then Romelu Lukaku was frustrated at the lack of options when he rode a tackle to go clear down the right, Ashley Young eventually having an effort deflected wide.
However, Inter took the lead moments later when Lukaku laid it off, Roberto Gagliardini’s through ball released Darmian again down the right, but rather than cross, he nutmegged the goalkeeper at the near post.
Lukaku sparked another dangerous counter-attack, sending Lautaro Martinez clear, but the first shot was charged down and his rebound stung Yann Sommer’s gloves at the near post.
Samir Handanovic was also called into action with two tough saves in quick succession on Stefan Lainer’s scorcher and a Marcus Thuram finish that squeezed through Milan Skriniar’s legs, the goalkeeper getting down to fingertip it away.
Lautaro Martinez wasted another promising counter when he tried to set up Lukaku instead of going for goal himself.
Borussia Monchengladbach equalised in first half stoppages with Alassane Plea, who was allowed a totally free header from six yards on the cross from Lazaro down the left.
The hosts threatened again after the restart, Thuram with another header that was too easy from a set play, this time over the bar.
Lautaro Martinez through he’d scored at the end of a great move, as Lukaku chested down the floated Gagliardini pass and the Argentine’s curler from outside the box smacked against the upright with Sommer absolutely stranded.
However, Lukaku got the goal Inter needed with sheer power, as the ball was won back in midfield, he shrugged off Zakaria and smashed in the angled drive with his weaker right foot.
Alexis Sanchez replaced misfiring Lautaro Martinez and made an immediate impact, as he spread the play down the left for Achraf Hakimi, whose cross allowed Lukaku to comfortably sweep in with the inside of the boot from 12 yards.
Gladbach fought back, as this time Alexis Sanchez went from hero to zero, losing the ball in midfield as Plea ran through a gap in the defence to score.
Ashley Young somehow failed to score when Alexis Sanchez pulled back from the by-line, it bounced off Lainer, but then he couldn’t steer the ball into the net despite being a yard out.
Plea thought he’d completed his hat-trick on 83 minutes when an angled drive squirmed through a crowd into the far bottom corner. However, Breel Embolo was offside and interfering with play, as he actively got out the way of the ball, so it was disallowed after VAR.
Borussia Monchengladbach 2-3 Inter
Darmian 17 (I), Plea 45+3, 75 (B), Lukaku 64, 73 (I)
Borussia Monchengladbach: Sommer; Lainer, Ginter, Jantschke (Zakaria 46), Wendt (Wolf 78); Kramer, Neuhaus; Lazaro, Stindl (Embolo 70), Thuram; Plea
Inter: Handanovic; Skriniar, De Vrij, Bastoni; Darmian (Hakimi 60), Barella, Brozovic, Gagliardini, Young (Perisic 87); R Lukaku, Lautaro Martinez (Alexis Sanchez 71)
Ref: Makkelie (NED)