Inter secure knockout spot

Inter Milan, last season’s UEFA Champions League finalists, secured their spot in the knockout phase with two games to spare after a hard-fought 1-0 victory against FC Salzburg. The winning goal came late in the match from the penalty spot, courtesy of Lautaro Martínez, who has demonstrated his prowess by scoring nine of his last 12 goals in this competition away from home.

Inzaghi, Inter Milan’s head coach, initially decided to keep Martínez on the bench. The hosts, Salzburg, made an energetic start, with Yann Sommer making a crucial save to deny Roko Šimić, the son of former Inter defender Dario. Salzburg felt aggrieved when Šimić appeared to be fouled in the box, but the appeals for a penalty were dismissed. Inter had their chances too, notably when Hakan Çalhanoğlu’s precise free-kick found Alessandro Bastoni, who unfortunately headed wide. Another missed opportunity came from Davide Frattesi, who skied his shot after a well-placed pass from Alexis Sánchez.

Despite enjoying the majority of possession, Salzburg struggled to create clear-cut opportunities in the final third. Their attempts to force a breakthrough continued in the second half, but Inter’s defense held firm. Oscar Gloukh had a golden opportunity for Salzburg, but he blasted his shot over the bar when he should have tested Sommer. Inter’s goalkeeper was called into action again to deny Karim Konaté’s shot.

Inter Milan’s coach introduced Martínez and Nicolò Barella in the 68th minute, injecting fresh energy into the team. Martínez made an immediate impact, hitting the crossbar with a powerful header from Bastoni’s cross. The breakthrough finally came when Barella’s shot was blocked by Mads Bidstrup’s outstretched arm, resulting in a penalty. Martínez stepped up and confidently converted the spot-kick, securing the crucial win for Inter.

In their next Champions League fixture, Inter Milan will face bottom-placed Benfica, while Salzburg will travel to San Sebastián to take on group leaders Real Sociedad, needing a victory to keep their hopes of progression alive.