Shakhtar Donetsk (0)
Inter have only 2 points after the first two games in the group stage of the UEFA Champions League. Inter came back from Kiev with two crossbar hits, a tap in missed and a penalty claim, but only one point on the board from their game against Shakhtar, as both teams failed to score during the game.
The game saw Inter dominate ball possession and chances created. However, Inter failed to convert their chances against a home team that chose to sit back defending for whole game.
Lukaku and Barella could have given Inter the lead in the first half. Their two excellent shots missed the goal by inches only to hit the crossbar. Lautaro Martinez missed the biggest chance of the game. The ball fell to his feet just outside the 6-yard box after the goalkeeper stopped Brozovic’s shot. Instead of passing the balls into the back of the net, he opted to shoot with power, but failed to make the right contact as the ball missed the goal completely.
Shakhtar Donetsk, who were playing in the Ukrainian Capital instead of their home town due to problem in Donetsk, were very happy with the one point from this game. After grabbing three points from the Spanish capital when they faced Real Madrid in the first round. They only tried to attack Inter in very little occasions. And only registered one shot on target which was even an easy save for Handanovic.
Inter now are in a complicated position made by their own hands in this group. They share the second place with Borussia M.Gladbach with 2 points each behind the leaders Shakhtar with 4 points. Real Madrid whom Inter will face in the next two games sit in the last position with only one point. No one could have imagined that the group would have this standing after the second game.
Shots/on Target: Inter 12/4 (Shakhtar Donetsk 4/1)
Possession: Inter 59% (Shakhtar Donetsk 41%)
Total Passes/Success: Inter 588/86% (Shakhtar Donetsk 426/82%)
Crosses: Inter 22 (Shakhtar Donetsk 5)
Starting Lineup and Formation
Conte started with a clear 3-5-2 formation. Stefan de Vrij came back to the starting lineup after being rested in the last game against Genoa. Bastoni and D’Ambrosio kept their position as the two outside center-backs. Nicolo Barella started alongside Brozovic and Arturo Vidal in the heart of the middle. Ashley Young and Achraf Hakimi played the outside wingback roles, while Lautaro and Lukaku started again upfront.
In this game, Inter midfield trio played as a flat line in front of the defense, rather than two defensive midfielders and 1 playmaker like the previous games. Barella mostly occupied the right part of the field with Vidal being on the left. They were moving up and down the field with freedom. While, Brozovic was moving everywhere on the pitch to create spaces. He had an astonishing 106 passes during the game.
The two wing backs, Hakimi and Young were playing very high in the final third due to the very defensive compact shape that Shakhtar adapted.
Lautaro Martinez and Romelu Lukaku were mainly operating from the middle. However, they did not have a lot of chances to work with the ball because of the man marking on them from the Shakhtar defense.
Inter made only late substitutions in this game. Started in the 72nd minute by bringing in Perisic to replace Lautaro Martinez upfront. Christian Eriksen and Matteo Darmian replaced Vidal and D’Ambrosio in the 79th and the 80th minute respectively. Eriksen tried to play the playmaker role without any success as he failed to have any impact on the game. Antonio Conte played his last card by throwing in the young striker Andrea Pinamonti in the place of Ashley Young pushing Perisic to the left wing-back position. The youngster had very little time to work and by the time he adapted to the game, the final whistle arrived.
Style of Play
Inter started the game in a conservative way defensively. They gave too much respect to the opposition as they expected the attacking force that went to Madrid last week to grab the three points.
Instructions were clear to the players to drop back whenever Shakhtar had possession. The defensive line and the five midfielders were behind the ball in the first 20 minutes. They left Shakhtar to work with the ball as long as it was a way from Handanovic.
The two strikers Lautaro and Lukaku were not pressing hard on the defense of the opponent leaving them the chance to build from the back. That strategy gave Shakhtar the superiority of the possession as they had 60% of the ball in the first 20 minutes of the game.
With the game advancing, Inter realized that Shakhtar came to the game with the intention to hold only to one point. They had no attempts during these first 20 minutes. From that point, Inter started to play the usual game by pressing the opponent in their half. That press continued until the last minute of the game forcing Shakhtar players to play long balls to the lone striker without any success.
The defensive line did not have a lot to deal with during this game with Shakhtar non-existing offense.
Inter had 59% ball possession which shows the dominance after having only 40% in the first 20 minutes.
Inter had a great opportunity to come home with the three points from Kiev. However, they failed to convert the few but very dangerous chances they were able to create.
Attacking from the middle was not an option during this game. Shakhtar had two defensive lines in front of each other. With at least nine players defending every time Inter attacked, the middle was closed and the two forwards were closely marked. Lukaku and Martinez failed to have the great impact on the game as the usually do when they play together.
Each of the two forwards had one clear cut chance. However, Romelu’s chance was from a free-kick right outside the box when his shot was saved by the goal keeper to the crossbar.
With Hakimi back in the starting lineup, the right side of Inter was on fire. Most of the attacks were from the that part of the field. They continuously went to the right side to get the ball to the speedy Moroccan. Achraf had 67 touches during the game.
The left side had some share of the attacking plays. But with Bastoni and Ashley young on that side. Only 6 crosses were played from the left in comparison with 13 from the other side.
The other weapon that Conte unleashed during the first half specially was Danilo D’Ambrosio. He was always pushing very high to join the attack, while always being an option on the right side whenever Hakimi needed support. Danilo Came close to assist Lautaro after a brilliant run forward in the 29th minute to receive Barella’s long ball, but his cross was a little bit long. The right center back also had a chance to score himself when Ashley Young played a brilliant cross to him at the far post. But, again the cross was long.
Inter came back with a disappointing result from Kiev. They had the chance to win the game but failed to convert once again.
Conte needs to work more on finding solutions to break down teams when they sit back defending. Inter will face this defending style over and over again with the possession style of play the team adapts.
Inter lack of creativity will come to haunt them against stronger oppositions. Some teams will have the attacking Force that can cause trouble on the counter if they don’t kill games off.
The positive thing that Inter can take from this game is the second successive clean sheet. This is a good sign that the defense is improving and the Midfield is getting balanced.
Inter fate is still in their hands in the UEFA Champions League. If the team gets two decent results against Real Madrid in the coming games, they can qualify to the second round.