After a ten-year absence, Lautaro Martinez scored a late goal to prevent the Spanish team a glorious comeback to the Champions League, snatching a 1-1 draw against Real Sociedad on Wednesday. Inter Milan was the runners-up in the previous season.
For the most part of the evening, Brais Mendez’s early goal separated the teams in San Sebastian, but the hosts missed many chances to extend their advantage in a spirited performance that left Simone Inzaghi’s squad battered but unbeaten.
Given that Inter maintained their Serie A leadership by thumping rivals AC Milan 5-1 in the derby on Saturday, the Basque team’s performance was all the more noteworthy.
The only thing that kept the Italian team from losing at the beginning of their Champions League campaign was Martinez’s cool finish after 87 minutes.
Martinez said on Amazon Prime TV, “We did not play as we planned, so I’m not satisfied.”
“We faced a team that pressed us very high, and we had a lot of problems in the first half trying to build from the back.”
“We didn’t play well, but it was important to avoid losing at least because that would have made the group more complicated,” he went on.
Real Sociedad, led by Imanol Alguacil, got off to a fast start as Mendez forced a save from Yann Sommer and Ander Barrenetxea struck the post in a hectic beginning.
Real Sociedad had only four minutes to take the lead, despite having to wait ten years to return to the Champions League.
The ball was won back by the hosts on the outside of the box as they applied intense pressure to defender Alessandro Bastoni. Mendez then finished the move with style.
Although Inter was able to defuse the situation, they were unable to generate any meaningful opportunities.
Before the break, Robin Le Normand headed over, maybe doubling La Real’s advantage, and Sommer stopped Takefusa Kubo.
The hosts came out as determined as they were from the beginning, and Inter’s Swiss goalkeeper first headed a Mendez free-kick to safety before making an incredible stop to deny Mikel Oyarzabal early in the second half.
Referee Michael Oliver almost made the visitors’ night worse by sending out Nicolo Barella for aggressive behavior after a confrontation with Mendez, but he later reversed the decision after seeing a VAR playback.
With twenty minutes remaining, Real Sociedad attempted to end the match, but Mikel Merino, a midfielder, missed the bar with a glance.
Carlos Augusto’s pass found substitute Marcus Thuram scoring for Inter, but the Brazilian full-back was offside and the goal was disqualified.
Martinez scored the game-winning goal in the dying moments after Real Sociedad failed to heed the warning. Martinez was found by replacement Davide Frattesi’s sweeping ball.
“We knew we were up against a very good team tonight, and we played poorly, but we did well to stay in the game because of our goalkeeper,” Inzaghi said.