The Malta Independent 19 April 2024, Friday
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Arnautovic helps Inter beat Atlético 1-0 in 1st leg of Champions League last 16

Associated Press Wednesday, 21 February 2024, 07:19 Last update: about 3 months ago

Marko Arnautović came off the bench to help Inter Milan to a 1-0 win over Atlético Madrid in the first leg of the Champions League round of 16 on Tuesday.

Arnautović replaced the injured Marcus Thuram at halftime and redeemed himself after missing a couple of golden chances by scoring the winning goal 11 minutes from time.

“I’m sorry for Marcus, I never want a player to get injured,” Arnautović told Italian broadcaster Mediaset. “These are my opportunities, I come on to make the difference … it’s not an easy period for me but the third chance went in.”

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Initial reports were that Thuram injured a muscle in his right thigh and Inter will be hoping to have the France forward back for the second leg in Madrid on March 13.

“The hope is to lose him (Thuram) for little time,” Inter coach Simone Inzaghi said, after praising Arnautović.

 

“He will be very precious to us as he has been so far … We were obviously disappointed with the chances he missed but forwards should be worried when they don’t have chances. I was a forward, there were periods when I didn’t have chances and I was much more worried than when I had them and didn’t manage to finish them off.”

Inter stretched its perfect record this year to nine wins, while it was a third loss in four matches for Atlético.

The Spanish team didn’t have a single shot on target at San Siro but will be hoping they can take lessons learned into the return at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium.

“I am optimistic obviously. We still have the opportunity to fight,” Atletico coach Diego Simeone said. “We know what we are going to face, we know how they play — we just played them — and I hope that we will be able to take our chance.”

PSV Eindhoven and Borussia Dortmund drew 1-1 in Tuesday’s other match.

Inter was a surprise Champions League finalist last year but appears to have stepped up a level since and looks to be storming to the Serie A title after building a nine-point advantage — and with a game in hand.

It was a cagey first half at San Siro until Inter appeared to wake up nine minutes before the break.

Neither goalkeeper had really been tested before Lautaro Martínez, who had fired a good opportunity over the bar moments earlier, saw his header smothered by Jan Oblak.

Lautaro had an even better chance two minutes later when Thuram went on a surging run and rolled across for the Argentina World Cup winner but he scuffed his shot and it was deflected behind off Atlético defender José María Giménez.

Thuram also had an opportunity on the stroke of halftime but had his effort saved by Oblak and immediately then went down with a problem.

The Inter forward, who has emerged as a key player for the Nerazzurri since joining in the offseason, was able to continue after receiving treatment but went off at halftime shaking his head. His father, former Parma and Juventus defender Lilian Thuram, watched at San Siro.

Arnautović could have made an immediate impact when he came sliding in to meet a Federico Dimarco cross only to balloon it over the bar. He later fired another attempt narrowly over after sumptuous play with Lautaro.

Álvaro Morata was brought on by Atlético in the 54th minute, making his return from injury earlier than expected, and immediately set up Lino but he fired wide of the left post.

The visitors had an even better opportunity moments later when Marcos Llorente was sent through on goal but Inter defender Stefan de Vrij managed to get back in time for a last-ditch tackle.

Inter upped the pressure and eventually broke the deadlock when Lautaro surged forward and although Oblak managed to parry his effort Arnautović drilled home the rebound.

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