Inter 0-1 Bayern: Gomez nicks it at the end
Mario Gomez struck very late to give Bayern a crucial first leg lead.
Leonardo was without Diego Milito (injured) and Giampaolo Pazzini (cup-tied). He played Dejan Stankovic and Wesley Sneijder off Samuel Eto’o.
Louis van Gaal played the same XI that started the weekend game against Mainz, though had to make a change towards the end of the first half when Danijel Pranjic got injured. Breno replaced him, with Holger Bastuber going to left-back.
The game was surprisingly open, with a chance for Andrea Ranocchia in the opening minute, following a set-piece. Dead ball opportunities provided the most obvious openings for the home side, with their other good chance in the opening period falling to Eto’o, after Lucio had stayed up for a corner and played the ball across the box.
Bayern were the better side, however, shading possession and creating more chances. Inter were perhaps surprised by how Bayern have changed in the nine months since the sides met in the European Cup final. Then, Bayern were a counter-attacking side, who played almost exclusively through Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery down the flanks. This season (partly because of the absence of those two) they’ve become more possession-orientated, and that showed here.
Inter immediately dropped very, very deep when they lost the ball – deeper than their manager wanted, as Leonardo was visibly encouraging his side to move higher up the pitch. As a result, Bayern had plenty of time on the ball – in particular, the full-backs had no direct opponent, much like in the first half against Roma, the last time they played in Italy. Philipp Lahm and Pranjic didn’t do anything great on the ball, but they did force Inter’s outside midfielders to come to meet them, opening space in the midfield. The full-back also helped work 2 v 1 situations with Robben and Ribery.
Central midfield battle
The situation with Inter’s two attacking midfielders was interesting. Sneijder pulled out to the left, Stankovic played deeper and to the right. Bayern’s two deep central midfielders didn’t necessarily track them – they instead made sure they kept the distance between themselves and the Bayern back four tight. Bayern’s full-backs played very narrow to help crowd out Inter’s attacking trio – so it was usually 6 v 3 in a very tight area. Inter’s problem was that they usually only attacked with three players – there was little drive from midfield, and the full-backs had Bayern’s wingers to deal with. Inter were the definition of a broken side.
Inter were more positive in the second half. They played higher up and didn’t let their defence drop so deep. They were still vulnerable to 2 v 1 situations down the flanks, however, and Bayern created a golden chance from a cross in the 47th minute, that Muller headed wide.
It became increasingly clear what Inter’s problem was when they didn’t have possession – Sneijder and Stankovic weren’t doing anything. The Bayern full-backs were free, whilst their holding players found it easy to move from side to side into space. In this respect, it wasn’t dissimilar from the way Leonardo exited the competition last season, when his Milan side crashed out to Manchester United, mainly because Ronaldinho and Pato did absolutely nothing when their side didn’t have possession. Leonardo’s commitment to attacking football is admirable, but it might well cost him dear again – and it’s especially unsustainable when the ‘attacking’ football doesn’t produce any goals.
Substitutions changed the game little. Houssine Kharja replaced Ranocchia because of injury, with Zanetti going to left-back and Cristian Chivu moving into the centre – but that was the second and final change of the game – and both were because of injury. Neither side changed their system or their overall strategy, both managers were content.
If you were to break the game down into nine ten-minute sections, Inter’s most positive part of the game was probably in the final ten minutes. Such is football, that was when Bayern scored – Robben was allowed inside onto his stronger foot, and his swerving drive wasn’t held by Julio Cesar – Gomez pounced to get the goal that he didn’t deserve, but his team certainly did.
A surprisingly open game. Bayern were by far the better side here – they were organised without the ball, dominated possession, and manufactured better chances by working the ball down the flanks. The only surprise was that their goal took so long to come.
It has been a disastrous European Cup round for Italian clubs so far – all three clubs at home, all losing. More specifically, all three sides have been vulnerable to width and pace, and Italian football seems an era behind the rest of Europe this season.