Inzaghi urges Inter to repeat first-leg display to seal progression to Champions League last four

By Sports Desk April 11, 2023

Simone Inzaghi feels his Inter team must repeat their first-leg performance at San Siro after a 2-0 victory at Benfica left them in the ascendancy of their Champions League quarter-final.

Inter headed into Tuesday's contest at Estadio da Luz on a dismal run of form, failing to win in their last six in all competitions.

But second-half goals from Nicolo Barella and Romelu Lukaku mean they are in the driver's seat as they look to get past Benfica and reach their first Champions League last four since they last lifted the famous trophy in the 2009-10 season.

Inter must first ensure they see out the quarter-final, though, and Inzaghi urged his team to replicate their strong first-leg display to seal their progression on home turf next Wednesday.

"I am very satisfied with the match played by the boys," Inzaghi told reporters at his post-match news conference. "We are enjoying the evening and we know we have taken the first step towards the semi-final.

"We will have a return match against a demanding team that was previously unbeaten [in this season's Champions League]. The boys were good; we deserved this victory. But in the Champions League we know that the result is not closed.

"Benfica are a quality team, very strong. We know we have an advantage in the second leg. We will have to repeat the match we played in Lisbon in Milan."

Inter's second-half showing was much better than their first, accumulating just 0.11 xG (expected goals) in the opening 45 minutes while managing only two touches in Benfica's box.

Barella's fine header to put them 1-0 up in the 51st minute was the visitors' first attempt on target, and Inzaghi blamed his team's hectic recent schedule for their lacklustre start, explaining: "Let's not forget that it's the fourth game in a few days, the third in six.

"The calendar is almost impossible, but we are Inter and in these two years we have never left anything behind. We know that there are objective difficulties due to tiredness, but I have tried to alternate a lot. We needed fresh faces."

Inzaghi has faced much criticism for Inter's poor recent form, with the Nerazzurri's failure to pick up maximum points in their last four Serie A matches, suffering three defeats during that time, leaving them out of the Champions League places.

The Inter head coach is focusing on his team, rather than outside noise, saying: "I'm used to it – criticism is part of the job. The important thing is to get answers from my players.

"Despite what was said, I was serene and calm. Sometimes you have to be clear-headed; you have to watch the games and leave aside the results."

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    "Tivoli is a quality team, they finished third which is a testament to their strength so we expected a close game, it did come down to fine margins and we know set plays can make a difference. So, it's something we have in our arsenal as we move forward," he added.

    It was a tentative start by both teams in the early exchanges as they moved the ball well but didn't really offer much in the attacking third at that point. In fact, it wasn't until in the 24th minute that Tivoli Gardens started to look more threatening in open play and even got the ball in the back of the net, only for it to be called back for a foul on Waterhouse's custodian Kemar Foster.

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    At the other end, Nickoy Christian went close for Waterhouse with a 38th-minute freekick that was punched clear by Diego Haughton in goal for Tivoli Gardens. 

    The deadlock was eventually broken six minutes later when Bryan picked himself up and converted from the 12-yard spot, after he was felled by Nathan Thomas in the danger area, to put Waterhouse 1-0 up at the break. 

    Tivoli Gardens were more purposeful on the resumption, as the substitutions injected some tempo into their attacking thrust and they bossed possession and forced Waterhouse into a defensive posture. They again threatened in the 57th when Justin Dunn’s cross found Morgan, whose effort was charged down by a defender.

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