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In the Zone: Benfica 3-3 Inter performance analysis

UEFA's Technical Observer panel analyse Benfica and Inter's thrilling high-scoring draw on Matchday 5.

Inter staged a remarkable comeback after going down 3-0 to Benfica
Inter staged a remarkable comeback after going down 3-0 to Benfica AFP via Getty Images

In a week of comebacks in the Champions League, Inter achieved one of the most dramatic as they overturned a 3-0 half-time deficit to earn a Group D point at Benfica.

In this analysis brought to you by FedEx, UEFA's technical observer panel assess several key features of Wednesday's six-goal contest: from Benfica's pressing and their attacking transitions to Inter's strategy to create space for their wing-backs.

Benfica 3-3 Inter as it happened



Benfica's defensive organisation

In the Zone: Benfica's defensive organisation

Roger Schmidt's side set up in a 1-4-2-3-1 but defensively moved into a 1-4-4-2 and their organisation was good – they were mobile, disciplined and co-ordinated in their pressing.

It is their pressing that is the focus of Clips 1 and 2 in the video above. In these clips we see how the Benfica full-back and wide attacker both press at the same time – in the first, João Mário presses the wide centre-back Yann Bisseck as Morato closes down Matteo Darmian.

Clip 2 offers more of the same: we see Morato and João Mário working in tandem once more on the left, and then Fredrik Aursnes and Ángel Di María doing the same on the right side. Benfica's defensive efforts in the wide areas, getting numbers around the ball, mean that Carlos Augusto and Davy Klaassen find themselves smothered and the home side force the turnover.

The final clip shows Benfica applying pressure higher up the pitch with five red shirts working hard to stop Inter's attempt to advance the ball out of their defensive third.

Benfica's threat following regains

In the Zone: Benfica’s threat following regains

Benfica's success in winning the ball back in the first half was underlined by the statistic that almost two-thirds of their recoveries – 26 from a total of 43 – came in the opening period. This leads directly to the second feature which caught the observer's eye: their threat when they did regain the ball. Schmidt's men were quick, direct and vertical.

In the first clip of this second video, we see João Mário pick up the loose ball and carry it forward. By the time Casper Tengstedt gets in the subsequent shot, Benfica have three men in the Inter box and six in the attacking third – a reflection of their speed in getting players forward.

The second clip shows a counterpress by Benfica in the lead-up to their second goal as Rafa Silva and Tengsted dispossess Kristjan Asllani as he tries to shepherd the ball away from his penalty box – an example of the intensity and aggression in the hosts' impressive first-half display.

The video ends with another example of their threat on transitions – and another display of their forwards' efforts to spring forward swiftly. Although João Mário is unable to get a shot away in this instance, he was lauded by the match observer for his efforts in playing as an extra No10 behind the striker and his "excellent runs into the box".

Inter find ways to unleash wing-backs

In the Zone: Inter wing-backs and substitutes

Inter's attitude was pivotal to their comeback according to coach Simone Inzaghi. There was more energy and intensity in their second-half performance yet one tactical aspect identified by UEFA's analysis unit was the way they engineered space for their wing-backs to exploit.

More than once an Inter midfielder ran into the full-back areas while Clip 1 shows Alexis Sánchez occupying space around Morato – and so freeing room on the left for wing-back Carlos Augusto. This action ends with the Brazilian running unmarked into the box to connect with a cross from his wing-back on the other side, Darmian, four minutes into the second period.

Clip 2 shows again the movement from Inter's players before the ball goes out wide to Carlos Augusto, who bursts forward to swing over another cross. This was one of ten crosses from open play by the Milan side in the second period – twice as many as they had managed in their first.

Impact of Inter's subs

Inter were generally more switched on in a second half in which they attempted ten of their overall total of 14 shots. Inzaghi's use of substitutes was a contributory factor too and arguably none played a more significant role than Marcus Thuram with the strong run which yielded the penalty kick from which Alexis Sánchez levelled the scores.

It came two minutes after Thuram's introduction as part of a triple substitution by Inzaghi in the 67th minute – and as the clip shows, the French forward certainly hit the ground running.

Coaches' and players' assessments

Roger Schmidt, Benfica coach: "I think we played a very good game overall, especially in the first half. We had a lot of ball possession, the ability to win duels. We dominated the game and we created great opportunities. We scored three goals and had an efficiency that we haven't had throughout the season."

Simone Inzaghi, Inter coach: "During the interval, we talked, we changed something, and we played with a completely different spirit in the second half.

"We made a few tactical adjustments but aside from tactics I'd say our attitude was wrong in the first half. In the second half, we had an excellent attitude."