Inter Milan defied expectations to beat Benfica 2-0 at the Estadio da Luz on Tuesday night and put one foot in the Champions League semi-finals.
The Nerazzurri went into the seeking redemption after a disastrous five-match winless streak in Serie A, bookended by a 1-1 draw at Salernitana last weekend, dropped them out of the top four for the first time in 2023.
With Simone Inzaghi’s future at Giuseppe Meazza hanging by a thread, the Italians needed some encouragement to settle the nerves. However, Benfica have been a handful for foreign opponents this season.
Unbeaten in all eight European matches this season, Benfica defeated Inter’s arch-rivals Juventus 4-3 in the group stage and came into the game searching for a first-ever semi-final qualification in the Champions League era.
Roger Schmidt’s side flew out of the traps, keeping the Nerazzurri pinned in their opening third in the first 20 minutes, with Rafa Silva coming agonisingly close to breaking the deadlock in the 13th minute.
The Portuguese ace latched onto the rebound inside the box and attempted a thunderous first-time shot, but Andre Onana came up huge to thwart his effort with a diving save.
Inter failed to produce a shot on target in the first half. To Inzaghi’s credit, his men at least kept Benfica’s free-flowing frontline at bay without much fuss.
Although they had a nightmarish first half, the Nerazzurri took the lead only six minutes after the break as Nicolo Barella connected his header with an inch-perfect cross from Alessandro Bastoni to open the scoring.
Despite barely having any possession, Inter doubled their advantage in the 82nd minute as second-half substitute Romelu Lukaku slotted home a penalty to give the visitors a comfortable lead.
Benfica had a glorious opportunity to regain a foothold in this tie, but Goncalo Ramos failed to beat Onana in a one-on-one in the final second of the match.
Schmidt’s men now have a mountain to climb as they’ll chase a substantial two-goal disadvantage in the return leg at Giuseppe Meazza.
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