UEFA's panel of Technical Observers analyse a win that allowed the Spanish side to clinch first place in Group D.
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Inter took a bold approach at the Santiago Bernabéu on Matchday 6 as they sought the points to overtake Real Madrid at the top of Group D. Yet while the visitors caught the eye with their high-pressing and positive intentions, Carlo Ancelotti's Madrid ran out 2-0 winners thanks to excellent strikes by Toni Kroos and Marco Asensio.
UEFA's panel of Technical Observers analyse how the contest unfolded.As it happened: Real Madrid 2-0 Inter
1-0: Toni Kroos (17)
Kroos concluded a crossfield move with a left-foot strike from outside the box which flew past Samir Handanović at his left-hand post. With Madrid moving the ball at a good tempo, Luka Modrić supplied Rodrygo on the right and he stepped inside before playing the ball square towards Casemiro. The Brazilian let it run through his legs and on to Kroos who, given time by Nicolò Barrella, saw the space and seized the opportunity. With one touch with his right foot, he shuffled the ball over to his left before unleashing his 11th UEFA Champions League goal.
A clinical finish by a player who worked hard defensively for the team, allowing Vinícius Júnior the space to lead Madrid's counterattacking threat down the left.
2-0: Marco Asensio (79)
Barely two minutes after entering the action, substitute Asensio showed composure and clean technique with the beautiful strike which secured Madrid's victory and first place in the group. Receiving the ball on the edge of the box, to the right of the D, he curled a shot beyond Handanović and in off the far post.
Best player: Luka Modrić
"I feel like I've not hit 30 yet," said the 36-year-old after his 100th appearance in the competition. His enduring excellence was clear to see on Tuesday night when he was always available for the ball, making good decisions in possession and showing the bravery required in the face of Inter’s well-organised high press (notably in the first half). As UEFA's Technical Observers noted, his quality of pass, game understanding and spatial awareness are vital to Madrid's attacking threat.
Inter lost but their display offered encouraging signs ahead of their first appearance in the competition's knockout rounds since 2012. In the first half, in particular, Simone Inzaghi's men produced an impressive performance, at least between the two boxes – ending it with a 6-1 corner count in their favour (albeit trailing 1-0 on the scoreboard). They were willing to take risks, playing the ball out from the back well and pressing high up the field aggressively – with their two strikers, both wing-backs and, at times, even all three midfielders pushing up, a brave strategy given it left their three centre-halves one-vs-one against the home forwards.
What this meant was that Madrid had difficulties playing through the line of aggressive pressure. Indeed after losing the ball repeatedly, the hosts responded by getting goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois to kick long. More than once, Inter then won the ball back and started to build up once more. In the first half, Inter had long spells of possession with Marcelo Brozović dictating the play while also getting forward to deliver three goal attempts (two blocked, the other on to the roof of the net).
Brozović also kept the ball moving to Barella, putting his midfield colleague in good positions to make the final pass – opportunities too often spurned, along with the clear opening that Barella drove over the crossbar just after half-time.
As for Madrid, not for the first time this season they remained deep and defended in numbers, allowing the opposition to take the control of the game while being ready to execute dangerous counterattacks. A key player in their defensive work was Éder Militão for the intensity and concentration he applied to his defending and his impressive powers of anticipation.
Madrid looked to dislodge the 5-3-2 Inter defensive set-up with two strong partnerships on either side of the pitch: between Dani Carvajal and Modrić on the right, and Ferland Mendy and Kroos on the left. Their understanding and use of the space out wide enabled Ancelotti's men to get high up the pitch and create chances, as with the first goal.
And it is worth adding that for all Inter's decent play, it was Madrid who created the best chances, scoring twice with Rodrygo also hitting a post and shooting wastefully into the side-netting following their first corner on the stroke of the interval.
Madrid's formation was a 4-3-3 in which Ancelotti looked to his three experienced midfielders to run the game for them. The width came from Vinícius Júnior (20) and Rodrygo (21) who took up very wide starting positions – on the left and right respectively – and looked for one-vs-one situations, even if at times they took the wrong option. In Karim Benzema's absence, Luka Jović (16) offered a strong reference point up front, showing good movement around the Inter centre-halves and a willingness to receive from his midfielders with his back to goal.
Inter set up in a 3-5-2 formation. Midfield pivot Brozović (77) always seemed to have time on the ball and played a prominent role with his excellent tactical understanding. He was the focal point for the goalkeeper and centre-halves as they looked to work the ball forward and linked up well with Barella (23) prior to the latter's sending-off just after the hour.
At right wing-back, Denzel Dumfries (2) caused Madrid problems with his physicality and mobility, offering an important outlet as Inter played out from the back and receiving support from Danilo D'Ambrosio (33) who would step across to cover the right side of the defence as the Dutchman penetrated further forward. As the match progressed, Ivan Perišić (14) increasingly offered an outlet on the left side.
Carlo Ancelotti, Real Madrid coach
"Sometimes we don't press too much high up … We're not a team with intensity in the defensive aspect. We can't defend with a high line, but we are a quality side with a lot of experience and commitment. Jović played very well, helping the team in the attacking phase and in controlling the game, too."
Simone Inzaghi, Inter coach
"There are a lot of regrets with the first half because, in my opinion, we played very well and with personality. Unfortunately we created a lot of situations where the numbers were in our favour, but we went into the interval a goal down.
"Clearly we wanted to get a different result but it will be very useful for our future. Barella made a serious mistake but the boy is intelligent, he understood the error and has apologised to everybody. It was an open match, we were close to scoring the equaliser after the break. When it became ten against 11 it was more difficult."