The Road to the Champions League Knockout Stage
Inter Milan had to make it through the group stage of the Champions League before they could advance to the knockout stage. Slavia Prague, Barcelona, and Borussia Dortmund were the formidable foes that the Nerazzurri encountered in Group B.
Inter got off to a great start in San Siro, as they defeated Slavia Prague 2-1. After that, they went to Germany and played to a 0-0 tie with Dortmund. After sweeping Slavia Prague and beating Barcelona at home, Inter needed a tie in their last group encounter to guarantee their spot in the knockout stage.
Inter advanced to the knockout stage as group runners-up after their 1-1 draw with Barcelona in Milan. Inter was drawn to face Porto, the champions of Portugal, in the round of 16.
Inter won 3-1 overall after a back-and-forth match in 2020 (February and March). Goals scored by Nicolò Barella and Romelu Lukaku led to a 2-1 triumph at San Siro. After a nine-year absence, Inter returned to the Champions League quarterfinals with a 1-0 victory in Porto, thanks in large part to another goal from Lukaku.
Inter has finally broken back into Europe’s elite after years of hardship. The Nerazzurri are hot off the bench with players like Lukaku and Barella, and they’re training under legendary coach Antonio Conte, so they should be able to contend for a Champions League championship for the first time since 2010. Inter can now focus on European success after overcoming their knockout stage demons. The path ahead will not be simple, but they are ready.
Pre-Match Build Up and Key Storylines
This Champions League quarterfinal is a high-stakes affair. After a disappointing season in Serie A, Inter Milan will look at this as their opportunity to redeem themselves. In contrast, FC Porto will be out to show that they belong among Europe’s best.
- With a dismal season thus far, Inter Milan is now in sixth position in Serie A. A Champions League victory would be a huge boost to their chances of making the European playoffs next year. There is a lot of expectation on manager Antonio Conte to perform.
- With an 11-point advantage atop the Portuguese league, Porto has been absolutely dominant. Despite having a spotless season thus far, they will have far tougher opposition in the Champions League. If they can defeat Inter, it will show that they are prepared to compete with the established giants of Europe.
- Nicolò Barella, Lautaro Martínez, and Romelu Lukaku – three important players for Inter – have displayed uneven play this season. Their performance will have a huge impact on Inter’s hopes. In order to get through Inter’s porous defence, Porto will look to their top scorers, Mehdi Taremi and Sérgio Oliveira.
- Both teams have been hit hard by injuries. Zaidu Sanusi, the left back for Porto, is out with an injury, and midfielders Stefano Sensi and Matías Vecino are not available for Inter. The winner of the two-leg match may depend on the depth of the squad.
There will be no letup in the intensity of this battle because to the two formidable teams, their fervent supporters, and the prestige of winning the Champions League. Stay tuned for all the action as two legendary clubs from Europe fight for a spot in the quarterfinals. This is the essence of the Champions League!
First Leg: Inter Milan vs FC Porto
On February 16, 2021, the San Siro stadium in Milan, Italy hosted the first leg of this Champions League match. Although Inter Milan played at home, FC Porto had a little advantage in past matchups, winning three of the last five. This gave them a slight lead going into this clash.
The first half was dominated by Inter Milan, who started well. Lautaro Martínez scored the game-winning goal for Inter in the 34th minute, giving the home club a 1-0 lead at halftime.
Quickly regaining parity, Porto’s Sérgio Oliveira scored in the 46th minute of the second half. For the following twenty minutes, the action remained well balanced as both teams had good scoring opportunities.
The 63rd minute was the turning point for Inter. With the dismissal of defender Alessandro Bastoni for a violent foul, Inter were reduced to playing with ten men. The lead went to Porto, who added two more goals in the 64th and 67th minutes through Moussa Marega and Mehdi Taremi, respectively.
Even down a player, Inter kept fighting but failed to score again. A 3-1 victory for FC Porto, the visiting team, sealed the deal. With a two-goal lead, Porto will be riding high going into the return leg at home. To progress, Inter needed a victory by a score of two or more, which was no easy task.
Inter Milan and FC Porto were preparing for a thrilling Champions League showdown. Everything was riding on the outcome of the second leg match, which was expected to be a highly competitive clash. The winner would go to the quarterfinals.
Second Leg: FC Porto vs Inter Milan
On March 9, 2021, at the Estádio do Dragão in Porto, Portugal, Inter Milan and FC Porto played the second leg of their Champions League round of 16 clash.
The starting lineup for Inter Milan’s 3-5-2 was:
- The starting eleven for Handanovic’s squad consists of: Skriniar, De Vrij, Bastoni, Hakimi, Eriksen, Brozovic, Perisic, Lukaku, and Martinez. In their 4-3-3 configuration, FC Porto started:
- Otavio Uribe, Marchesin, Manafa, Pepe, Zaidu, Oliveira, Marega, Luis Diaz, and Corona
Both sides started the match aggressively, generating opportunities for each other. Inter Milan had much of the ball in the first half, but FC Porto threatened often when they countered.
The lead was taken by Inter Milan in the 19th minute. Lautaro Martinez slotted a superb through ball from Romelu Lukaku past the custodian. Overall, Inter Milan had a one-goal advantage.
Inter Milan’s defence was too strong for FC Porto as they tried to equalise. At the end of the first half, they were behind 1-0.
The game shifted in FC Porto’s favour after halftime thanks to certain replacements. In the 61st minute, Otavio scored to draw the match even on aggregate. The Estádio do Dragão crowd went into a frenzy when they sensed a disturbance.
At the end of regulation time, the score was still tied. Inter Milan’s penalty area was a jumbled mess in the 92nd minute after a corner kick from FC Porto. Chancel Mbemba, a defender for FC Porto, soared above the onlookers to head the ball into the back of the net, extending the team’s lead to 3-2 after two matches. After beating Inter Milan, they moved on to the quarterfinals of the Champions League.
Both the crowd and the media lauded FC Porto’s incredible comeback win. After letting a 2-0 aggregate advantage to slip away in the round of 16, Inter Milan was criticised for the second season in a row. This encounter will go down in Champions League history as a classic.
Aftermath and Implications of the Two-Leg Tie
Both Inter Milan and FC Porto were emotional following their round-of-16 Champions League two-legged match. A exciting achievement and vindication of the club’s improvement this season, Inter Milan advanced to the quarterfinals for the first time in ten years. After dominating for large portions of both halves, FC Porto’s close loss was extremely crushing.
Inter Milan Celebrates, Looks Ahead
The club’s first Champions League quarterfinal appearance since 2011 was cause for celebration among Inter Milan players and supporters. Under Antonio Conte’s tutelage, the squad has blossomed this season, and they are atop Serie A, just behind Juventus. If they can make it to the quarterfinals, that means they’re on the right track.
In the round that follows, Inter will face either Juventus, Real Madrid, Manchester City, or Lyon. The challenge was met, as Inter demonstrated their rightful place among Europe’s best this season. The team also benefits monetarily from getting to the quarterfinals, since they receive a substantial dividend from UEFA. Inter could be able to bolster their roster this summer with the extra cash.
Heartbreak and What Next for FC Porto?
The aggregate loss was tough to take for FC Porto. Despite having the upper hand in terms of possession and scoring opportunities, they were unable to convert in either match. Currently in second place in Portugal’s Primeira Liga, the club is still on the search for a 29th league championship.
Although FC Porto will not be advancing in the Champions League, they have already qualified for the Europa League quarterfinals, giving them a second chance to win a European championship this season. If they want to stay in contention for the league championship, the squad will need to rest up for this weekend’s showdown. While FC Porto’s Champions League loss is disappointing, the club’s youthful, talented roster bodes well for the future. Needless to say, they’ll be back in the hunt next year.
It came down to razor-thin margins in the two-legged match between FC Porto and Inter Milan. As a result, Inter Milan has taken another giant leap towards reclaiming their position as a dominant force in Europe. Even though they lost by a razor-thin margin, FC Porto will be motivated to return even stronger next year. The prospects of both teams are bright.
Everything that happened before Inter Milan’s and FC Porto’s Champions League encounter is now in your hands. What’s at risk, who the teams are, and how they got here are all things you’ve seen before. Get ready for what promises to be an epic showdown between two of Europe’s most legendary clubs—all you have to do is turn on the TV, gather your snacks, and enjoy the match. Enjoy 90 minutes of top-notch football, intense emotion, and tremendous drama regardless of your side of the fence. There is no better place to watch the beautiful game than here. Cheers to an exciting evening and may the top team come out on top! In this newest round of the consistently disappointing competition, who will come out on top? We will receive a response in the next several hours. Time is of the essence.