Antonio Conte and Zinedine Zidane

Real Madrid versus Inter Milan was always quite the titanic European clash. The three-time Champions League winners returned to the familiar surroundings of the record-winners’ facilities where they prepared for and won their last UCL Final in 2010.

On Tuesday night, Zinedine Zidane’s men sealed a brilliant 3-2 win which took them to four points and joint-second in group B after a troubled start to their European campaign.

Indeed, it was their first Champions League win in 2020.

The clinical difference

Antonio Conte is building an Inter team of warriors in his own image, much like ex-Juventus teammate Zidane has been doing for years at Madrid. But unsurprisingly, Zidane’s team had the cohesion and extra gears needed to take advantage of the little details to secure maximum points.

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Madrid went two-nil up in the first half but Inter pulled one back two minutes later from Barcelona-target Lautaro Martínez, before equalizing through Ivan Perišić in the second period. Los Blancos, however, would steal a commanding victory 10 minutes from time through Rodrygo Goes.

Crucially, the Nerazzurri missed Romelu Lukaku, their attacking focal point who was stricken by a thigh injury. Madrid controlled the midfield comfortably without the target man holding up play and trying to force the issue for his team.

With only one win in their last seven games, Inter are in a sticky patch compounded by the absence of their goalscorer. However, they will take lots of courage from this performance at Estadio Alfredo Di Stéfano.

Lucas Vazquez and Ivan Perisic
Perisic scores Inter’s equalizer.

This is a contrast summed up by captain, Samir Handanović, “We had two chances and didn’t take them, whereas Real Madrid did, and those incidents made the difference. Ultimately, they were more determined”. The goalkeeper said.

“In wins and defeats, there is always something positive to take, but we have to become more determined because we really felt that we could’ve won it and that is not the first time we’ve experienced this situation.

Part of the difference for the Spanish side was the mature performance of left-back, Ferland Mendy, who registered five interceptions and three dribbles. The Frenchman had the daunting task of keeping Inter’s flying right wing-back, Achraf Hakimi quiet, even more so with Lukaku unavailable. 

Mendy stuck close to the ex-Madrid man, even forcing the Moroccan’s back-pass which went straight to Benzema for the opener. Lucas Vázquez was equally immense on the other flank, keeping Ashley Young quiet in an all-action display.

Rodrygo slams in the winner against Inter Milan


Furthermore, Zidane had his Brazilian duo of Vinícius Jr. and Rodrygo to swap for Eden Hazard and Marco Asensio on the hour mark. 

The young Samba connection ultimately won the game to get their European campaign back on track as Vinícius got past his marker on the left and squared to Rodrygo who finished expertly into the roof of the net.

Once again, Zidane’s squad depth and harmony pulled off a crucial win. 

Once again, Madrid depended on Benzema, Sergio Ramos, who scored his 100th for the club, and their customary inspired substitutes.

It was far from comfortable, but the story remains as you would predict likely scorers for any Madrid game. The freedom to express themselves in the game always makes the key difference when their backs are against the wall, much like it did when scoring twice in the final six minutes to draw Monchengladbach last week.

Zidane trusts his squad of exceptional leaders and gives them free rein tactically to do their jobs and win games.

Although they have now conceded at least twice in five consecutive Champions League games for the first time since 2001, Madrid would care less as their points are in the bag in a tight-looking group.

The little details make the key difference in qualifying in these circumstances. That which Madrid remain veterans of.


Bolu Alabi-Hundeyin

Chief Editor of the Football Castle, Bolu Alabi-Hundeyin is a football junkie and writer of the beautiful game.

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