It was always going to be an uphill task for Inter Milan to make their way through to the Quarter Finals in this season’s Champions League. It was not that the Italians played poorly against Liverpool in the first leg, having almost dominated their opposition up until the 75th minute. But when the big chances arrived in the game, Liverpool stepped up and took them and that decided the result of the leg. Now Inter had to overturn a 2-0 deficit away at Liverpool’s famed Anfield where the Reds tend to be difficult to depose of.
The story of the leg was one in sharp contrast to the narrative of the first, with Inter being more clinical and churning out chances and Liverpool squandering opportunities inside the final third, with them hitting both posts through Mo Salah and Joel Matip sending his header crashing against the crossbar.
But when their attack had a bad day in the office, Liverpool’s defence still stood still in front of the Italians. After all, despite having double the number of chances as Liverpool, it did take a Lautaro Martinez screamer from outside the box to break down the Reds’ resolute defence.
Having amassed just 37% of possession, Inter’s plan of attack was indeed to exploit Liverpool’s high defensive line by overturning possession and countering by playing a man through with a defence-splitting pass. But it proved to be difficult to pull off for Inzaghi’s men with the ever-alert Virgil van Dijk patrolling.
Goalscorer Martinez himself found out mid-way through the first half about the difficulty of facing the Dutch defender as he was spotted backing off a perfectly good through ball without giving it a full chase.
Lautaro gave up as soon as he saw Van Dijk 😭 pic.twitter.com/YrrCo5vufo— Carl (@LFCCarl_) March 8, 2022
The pass was almost perfectly timed as it put Matip out of the equation on Martinez’s left and gave the Inter man a head start there. But as soon as he saw VVD closing in on collecting the attempted pass, Martinez called it quits on the race.
Perhaps in the long run it was the better choice by the Argentine to conserve energy and pace in this instance as VVD is notoriously known for his pace and raw strength that is a nightmare for any striker. Martinez’s ex-teammate Romelu Lukaku, with all his strength and pace, has struggled against the Dutchman this season whenever Liverpool and Chelsea have met.
Loved this moment last night when Lautaro gave up as soon as he saw Van Dijk on this counter attack 😂😭— LiverpoolGoals (@Liverpoolgoals_) March 9, 2022
It just sums up how strikers must feel around Virgil, completely hopeless 😅👏 pic.twitter.com/1aUi6RAqBq
Having not been able to overturn the tie completely, Martinez would still consider having evened the odds in his personal battle with VVD as he was unable to stop the thunderbolt from the Argentine.