Inter kept their hopes of qualifying for the Champions League last-16 alive as Romelu Lukaku's brace sealed a 3-2 win over Borussia Monchengladbach on Tuesday. (More Football News)
Antonio Conte's side went into the game having failed to win any of their opening four Group B games, yet they got off to a fine start when Matteo Darmian's first goal for the club put them ahead early on.
Gladbach, who would have qualified as group winners with a victory, drew level in first-half stoppage time thanks to Alassane Plea's header, but Lukaku restored Inter's lead with the first of two cool finishes after the break.
Inter held on for all three points despite a second from Plea, meaning they go into next week's clash with Shakhtar Donetsk knowing a win - combined with a defeat for Real Madrid against Gladbach – will see them secure an unlikely spot in the knockout stages.
Inter's bright opening to proceedings led to Darmian drilling through the legs of Yann Sommer from eight yards, the opener coming at the end of a slick move on the edge of the penalty area.
Samir Handanovic brilliantly denied Marcus Thuram but could do little about Gladbach's leveller in first-half stoppage time, Plea's header from Valentino Lazaro's cross skipping up off the surface and into the top corner.
After Lautaro Martinez curled against the post from 20 yards, Lukaku put the visitors ahead in the 64th minute, holding off the challenge of Denis Zakaria and superbly lashing into Sommer's bottom-right corner.
The Belgium international added another nine minutes later, guiding home a first-time finish from 12 yards after he had been picked out in the middle by substitute Achraf Hakimi.
Gladbach were not done there, though, as Plea set up a tense final 15 minutes with a fine finish past Handanovic, the goal coming after Alexis Sanchez had been caught in possession.
Plea thought he had an equaliser for the hosts inside the final 10 minutes, but referee Danny Makkelie ruled out his strike for offside against Breel Embolo after a pitchside review, much to the relief of the visitors.
What does it mean? Inter live to fight another day
Conte said he wanted his players to learn from last week's defeat to Madrid and they certainly put in an improved performance against their Bundesliga hosts.
It was more tense at the end than it needed to be, but Conte will scarcely care as his side avoided losing three consecutive Champions League group matches for the first time, giving themselves a fighting chance going into the final round of fixtures.
Lukaku in lethal form
The striker was the model of efficiency for Inter, his two goals coming from his only shots on target. Lukaku has now scored 12 times in European competitions over the past two seasons, a tally only bettered by Robert Lewandowski (18) and Erling Haaland (16).
Young not at the races
Former Manchester United man Ashley Young endured a game to forget. The 35-year-old missed a sitter from close range late on and completed just 15 passes – the second lowest tally of any Inter starter.
Key Opta facts
- Inter have won three of their past five away games in all European competitions (D1 L1), one more than they registered in their previous 14 combined (W2 D4 L8).
- Gladbach conceded three goals in a home Champions League game for the first time in their history (ninth game).
- Lukaku has had a hand in eight goals in his last six appearances in the Champions League (six goals, two assists).
- Plea has been directly involved in eight goals in his five Champions League appearances (five goals, three assists) – the most in the competition this term.
- Darmian netted his first ever Champions League goal with what was his seventh shot in his 10th appearance in the competition.
Inter host Bologna on Saturday in domestic action, while Gladbach travel to Freiburg on the same day.