Lautaro Martínez came off the bench and scored a late penalty to help Inter beat Salzburg 1-0. I Nerazzurri reached the Champions League knockout rounds for a third successive season following the victory.
Inter were made to work hard for their victory in Austria and faced tricky spells throughout. However, Simone Inzaghi’s substitutes in the closing stages gave Neazzurri fresh legs at just the right time. Inevitably, it was Martinez who held his nerve from 12 yards to fire in his second Champions League goal of the season.
Salzburg threatened Inter’s backline plenty of times throughout the evening. The Austrian side made a blistering start. But Inter held on, gradually eased into the contest and were rewarded with a late winner.
Nerazzurri Forced onto the Backfoot
It was clear from the outset that Salzburg were not willing to let Inter settle. In contrast to the reverse fixture at the San Siro, the Austrian side pressed the Serie A side high up the pitch. As a result, I Nerazzurri were unable to generate any flow to their game.
Salzburg also looked the more likely to net an early goal. Roko Šimić forced Yann Sommer into a point-blank save before Mads Bidstrup drilled a shot over from long range.
When Inter did get a chance to break forward, they were quickly charged down by a swarm of black Salzburg shirts. The visitors had to improvise and some direct play forward led to the first half chance. Debutant Yann Bisseck was involved with a long pass into Marcus Thuram, who teed up Henrikh Mkhitaryan, but his resulting shot was blocked.
Inter’s Confidence Builds
As the half progressed, Inter found their feet and had a few threatening drives forward. Bisseck almost capped his first Champions League start in perfect fashion with a fierce rising strike from 18 yards. Although Alexander Schlager had no trouble collecting the 22-year-old’s shot.
The best half of the chance then came for Alessandro Bastoni who met Hakan Çalhanoğlu’s inch-perfect cross. But the Inter skipper showed the composure of a player who hasn’t scored a competitive goal since January 2022 as he sent his header wide of the post.
Another huge opportunity arrived before the break following a sharp burst into Salzburg’s half. Thuram raced forward, found Alexis Sanchez and the forward set the ball back for Davide Frattesi, who leant back and sent his shot flying over the bar from 10 yards.
No breakthrough for Either Side
Simone Inzaghi’s side came out with more purpose after the break and more opportunities arrived. Çalhanoğlu tested Schlager with a swerving free-kick front the edge of the box before Matteo Darmian’s follow-up shot was cleared by the Salzburg defence.
The visitors could not build on their few glimpses at goal and Salzburg were soon back on the attack. Karim Konaté was next to threaten the Inter goal with a galloping run into the box. The forward then struck towards the corner and Sommer reacted quickly to parry the ball to safety.
Better quality chances continued to come Salzburg’s way and Amar Dedić forced Sommer into another strong save. Inter failed to deal with a corner from the Austrian side and Dedić reacted with a low shot that Sommer repelled.
Super Subs Make an Impact
With the game edging towards a goalless draw, Inter started to go more direct. Fresh off the bench, Kristjan Asllani tried his luck from 30 yards. The midfielder almost caught Schlager off guard, yet the Salzburg stopper managed to backpedal and save Asllani’s dipping shot.
Inter’s top scorer Lautaro Martínez was also introduced by Inzaghi for the final 20 minutes and the Argentinian almost made an immediate contribution. Bastoni’s cross found the onrushing striker who rose and headed towards goal, only for Schlager to tip the attempt onto the bar.
As the game headed towards a goalless draw, Inter were given a golden opportunity. Bidstrup handled the ball in the area from Nicolò Barella’s shot for a clear penalty. As expected, Martinez stepped up and slammed the spot-kick into the bottom left corner.