A last-minute winner from Rodrygo saw Real Madrid get their Champions League campaign off to the ideal start away to Inter on Wednesday night.
In an entertaining but goalless first half, Inter repeatedly exposed but failed to exploit the gaping chasms Madrid’s lopsided system offered.
A wayward free header from Madrid’s Eder Militao half an hour in wasn’t reflective of the run of play as the visitors conceded 14 shots in the first half alone – their second-highest 45 minute tally suffered in the Champions League since at least 2004 according to Opta.
Inter’s Edin Dzeko drew the best of numerous stops from Thibaut Courtois with a thunderous header of his own shortly after the interval that Milan Skriniar couldn’t convert on the rebound.
But the hosts lost their fluency thereafter. Inter’s drop-off certainly owed to Madrid’s increased, though largely stale, domination of the ball. However, much like their league draw at the weekend, Simone Inzaghi’s introduction of four players less than 20 minutes into the second half certainly robbed the Nerazzurri of the zip and thrust that defined their first half.
In the end, his heavily tinkered side were stung at the death as, ironically, Carlo Ancelotti’s substitutes Eduardo Camavinga and Rodrygo combined for the only goal of the game from close range to snatch victory.
Samir Handanovic (GK) – 6/10 – Given very little to do but did look nervy when pressed with the ball at his feet.
Milan Skriniar (CB) – 8/10 – Striding out of defence confidently, the imposing Slovakia international showed his elite ability on and off the ball.
Stefan de Vrij (CB) – 7/10 – Surreptitiously marshalling Inter’s back-three, De Vrij silkily went about his business with few thrills or spills.
Alessandro Bastoni (CB) – 8/10 – Seamlessly restored to the Scudetto-winning defensive triumvirate, Bastoni looked like he’d never been away.
Matteo Darmian (RWB) – 6/10 – Pushing forward regularly but sloppily caught offside more than once.
Nicolo Barella (CM) – 6/10 – Mercilessly exploiting the chasms of space Madrid afforded him in the first half, Barella’s influence dwindled as the game wore on.
Marcelo Brozovic (CM) – 8/10 – Entrusted with the crucial double-edged task of bravely building the play between Madrid’s press and snuffing out any flicker of threat, Brozovic was superb.
Hakan Calhanoglu (CM) – 4/10 – The speed of Europe’s top-tier competition exposed a distinct lack of pace in Calhanoglu’s first Champions League appearance in five years.
Ivan Perisic (LWB) – 7/10 – A constant thorn deep into Madrid’s right flank but never shirked his defensive duties. Unlucky to be subbed less than ten minutes into the second half.
Lautaro Martinez (ST) – 6/10 – Menacingly floating in pockets of space his strike partner seems to carry behind him, Lautaro squandered a decent header in the first half and was surprisingly subbed off early after the break – much to the bemusement of the San Siro crowd.
Edin Dzeko (ST) – 7/10 – Inter’s new number nine had the beating of Madrid’s centre-back duo from the first whistle, ably holding up the ball and linking with his new colleagues.
Federico Dimarco (LWB) – 4/10 – Struggled to exert the same threat as the man he replaced, Perisic.
Denzel Dumfries (RWB) – 5/10 – While all of Inter’s play in the first half came down the right, Dumfries didn’t enjoy anywhere near the same amount of ball time upon arrival.
Joaquin Correa (ST) – 5/10
Arturo Vidal (CM) – 5/10
Matias Vecino (CM) – N/A
Thibaut Courtois (GK) – 9/10 – Produced a torrent of crucial stops to single-handedly keep Madrid in the game.
Dani Carvajal (RB) – 6/10 – All too often forced to cover an opening created by a teammate’s (or his own) error.
Eder Militao (CB) – 5/10 – Ever eager to charge into a tackle, the young Brazilian struggled against the experience Dzeko.
David Alaba (CB) – 6/10 – Seemingly intent on discovering the brand of Dzeko’s aftershave, the former Bayern Munich man was perennially touch-tight to Inter’s frontman with decidedly mixed results.
Nacho Fernandez (LB) – 5/10 – Showing his supreme flexibility as a full-back despite the availability of Alaba, the uncomplaining Nacho may have been better suited in his natural role.
Fede Valverde (CM) – 4/10 – With rare openings to show his superb physical capabilities, Valverde looked flustered and rash on the ball in the final third.
Casemiro (CM) – 4/10 – Delivered another clunky performance to begin an uncharacteristically sloppy campaign, so far.
Luka Modric (CM) – 4/10 – Repeatedly found himself as the widest midfielder on the left-hand side, Modric was caught in a constant conflict of whether to close down his man or stay in position, often doing neither.
Lucas Vazquez (RW) – 5/10 – Haring up and down the field a typically selfless display, Vazquez scarcely showed much threat at the sharp end of the pitch.
Karim Benzema (ST) – 5/10 – Starved of service for much of the game, the slippery Frenchman struggled against Inter’s imposing central trio.
Vinicius Junior (LW) – 5/10 – Clearly had the beating of Skriniar (and anyone else) for pace but had precious few chances to show it.
Rodrygo (RW) – 8/10 – In truth, did little else but score, but when it’s the goal that decides a Champions League game that’s all you need to do.
Eduardo Camavinga (CM) – 7/10 – Coolly volleyed the ball across for Rodrygo’s winner less than ten minutes after coming on.
Marco Asensio (RW) – N/A