The mood at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, San Siro, was down because of the sad demise of Diego Maradona. The legend of Maradona started to evolve in Italy and obviously, his sacred presence was felt in the stands and dugout of San Siro.
Massive 3 points for @realmadriden in the do or die clash at San Siro. Inter were really poor and Madrid exploited it. Toni Kroos & Luka Modric showed their class. Hazard scored a goal from the penalty spot. The Midas touch of Rodrygo Goes was evident. Real Madrid are breathing. pic.twitter.com/UolwZ7c42g
— Faisal Caesar (@faisalyorker1) November 26, 2020
But the best way to respect the legend is to play the game which he always loved passionately – football and perhaps, while paying tribute to the legend before the start of the match, the players from Real Madrid and Inter thought of giving their best in the do or die clash.
But, sadly, football was not at its very best at San Siro.
Inter had been slow and below-par on the pitch – Real Madrid exploited it.
Nicolo Barella clipped the heels of Nacho Fernandez inside the box early on and Hazard powerfully dispatched the penalty despite Samir Handanovic guessing the right way.
Eden Hazard has scored his first Champions League goal for Real Madrid, his first in the competition since 22 November 2017.
A long wait is finally over. ? pic.twitter.com/nWwM8bu2B7
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) November 25, 2020
It gave Real Madrid the boost – Lucas Vazquez sent a 25-yard drive crashing against the base of the post and Hazard was denied by Handanovic as Madrid, without star striker Karim Benzema and skipper Sergio Ramos among others pushed for a second.
Inter lost Vidal to a couple of yellow cards before half-time for dissent as the Chilean international reacted angrily to a penalty call not going his way.
The hosts had another penalty shout rejected when Roberto Gagliardini went to the ground under pressure and they were further frustrated just short of the hour mark as Rodrygo Goes – on the field for 32 seconds – met Vazquez’s back-post cross and steered in.
Arturo Vidal has completely lost it here! ?
A double yellow card for getting right up in Anthony Taylor's face ?
Inter have a mountain to climb now… pic.twitter.com/ngz4NXlNds
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) November 25, 2020
Zinedine Zidane applied the 4-2-3-1 formation whereas Inter invested faith in 3-5-2. The wing-backs of Inter – Ashley Young and Achref Hakimi were expected to create more width for the strikers – Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez, but they failed to advance enough because Ferland Mendy and Dani Carvajal remained compact enough to weather the storm.
Toni Kroos and Luka Modric formed the pivots for Madrid – Kroos dropped in between the center-backs with Martin Odegaard lying in front of him always helped the ball to progress. Modric kept the midfield moving to exploit the spaces and occupying the right half of the field linking up with Vazquez and Carvajal.
Kroos balanced the shape of the backline along with creating brilliant passes while Modric advanced. The frontline was not moving enough and thus, Zidane had to change the shape to 4-3-3. Three Brazilians were introduced – Vinicius Junior, Rodrygo Goes, and Casemiro; who reduced the intention of holding off and forced the team to advance forward.
Rodrygo’s first touch >>>>> pic.twitter.com/aVPn1NdY3c
— Sami (@Play_boySami) November 25, 2020
Casemiro’s inclusion, in place of Odegaard, provided more defensive solidity in midfield alongside the Kroos-Modric duo who impressed as they so often do. He had more touches (55) and completed passes (49, 98% success) in 30-odd minutes than Odegaard in 60, without doing much defending either. The game was over.
Real Madrid bagged full points and also, they won the reverse fixture 3-2 earlier this month to revive their Group B campaign and they made a strong start to what was the first meeting between these sides at Inter’s iconic ground since 1998.
Things would get tougher for Inter and Antonio Conte has to face the heat.
Lukaku’s comments at the weekend were impactful because it’s true – despite spending more than £450m over the past four seasons; they’re no closer to bridging the gap than other rivals who’ve invested more wisely.