Slavia Prague 1-3 Inter: Martinez and Lukaku boost Champions League knockout hopes

By Timothy Abraham 28 November 2019 15
Slavia Prague 1-3 Inter: Martinez and Lukaku boost Champions League knockout hopes

Inter's Champions League fate is in their own hands after Lautaro Martinez and Romelu Lukaku inspired a 3-1 win at Slavia Prague on Wednesday.

Martinez's crisp finish put Inter ahead before they saw a second goal chalked off and Slavia instead awarded a penalty, which Tomas Soucek converted to tee up a draw that would do little for either side.

But late strikes from the outstanding Lukaku and Martinez secured the precious points for Inter as they bid to reach the knockout stage.

Antonio Conte's men are second in Group F on seven points, ahead of third-placed Borussia Dortmund on head-to-head.

Inter will qualify if they beat Barcelona in a mammoth San Siro showdown on matchday six, while Dortmund host now-eliminated Slavia and hope for a Nerazzurri slip-up.

Martinez gave Inter the lead in the 19th minute with a goal that owed much to the intelligence, awareness and strength of Lukaku, who shrugged off two Slavia defenders and cut the ball back for his strike partner to hook into the net.

Inter thought they had doubled their advantage in a chaotic spell just after the half-hour mark as Lukaku tapped in a Martinez cross after a mistake by Michal Frydrych.

But the VAR instructed referee Szymon Marciniak to consult the pitchside monitor and he instead awarded a penalty to Slavia, with Stefan de Vrij spotted clumsily fouling Peter Olayinka.

Home captain Soucek confidently dispatched the spot-kick low past Inter goalkeeper Samir Handanovic.

However, an increasingly tired Slavia performance was punished ruthlessly by Inter in the final 10 minutes of the second half.

Lukaku rounded Slavia goalkeeper Ondrej Kolar and slotted into an empty net to vitally put Inter 2-1 up, before a stunning volley from Martinez secured the points.

Belgium striker Lukaku thought he had added a fourth in stoppage time, too, only for his effort to ruled out for offside following a VAR check.

What does it mean? Inter in pole position

Barcelona's victory over Borussia Dortmund ensured they progress to the last 16 as comprehensive winners of Group F, but second place is up for grabs. Inter are one win away now - albeit against the Blaugrana - while Slavia are out, with Dortmund hosting the basement side.

More magic from Martinez

Two fine finishes from Martinez took his tally to five in five games in this season's competition. He became the fourth Inter player to score in four consecutive Champions League matches, joining Samuel Eto'o, Christian Vieri and Hernan Crespo in achieving the feat.

Husbauer with head in hands

Josef Husbauer got free on three occasions in promising positions, but his finishing let him down in stark contrast to the clinical pair at the other end of the pitch. Slavia will reflect on these missed opportunities, with their exit sealed.

Key Opta Facts

- Slavia Prague are now winless in 10 Champions League matches since they won their first ever match in the competition (D4 L6).
- Inter have now failed to keep a clean sheet in 15 of their past 16 Champions League matches, last keeping one away from home in the competition against Lille back in October 2011.
- Romelu Lukaku netted his first goal in the competition for the Nerazzurri. He also registered three goal involvements in the same Champions League game for the very first time.

What's next?

Inter host SPAL in Serie A on Sunday while Slavia also return to domestic action on the same day with a home fixture against Karvina. The sides are next in Champions League action on December 10.

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Timothy Abraham