When at last the final whistle went, Zinedine Zidane turned to his right, Antonio Conte turned to his left and they turned down the tunnel together. Former teammates, they embraced, each man knowing that he could have been in the other’s shoes at the end of a tense, open and unpredictable night. A game that both teams needed to win and both could have won ultimately ended with Real Madrid defeating Internazionale 3-2.
Victory came thanks to a superb goal from the substitute Rodrygo who, asked afterwards if he was happy or relieved, replied “both”. That made sense: his winning goal had come when Madrid, who came into this game with a single point, were most under pressure; it also lifted them off the bottom of the group and left Inter there instead. It could have gone either way, until Vinícius delivered the ball from which Rodrygo changed the match and the shape of things to come.
This was dynamic and open from the start, Samir Handanovic tipping over from Marco Asensio as early as the fourth minute and then seeing Fede Valverde’s delivery drop dangerously inside the six-yard box before Valverde struck over. The scoreboard – an old-style square with dotted numbers straight out of a Subbuteo stadium – signalled just six minutes gone, and within three more Nicolo Barrelo had headed Ivan Perisic’s clipped cross off the bar. A moment later, Thibaut Courtois saved from Lautaro Martínez.
That first Inter advance came from a route that was to become familiar – Achraf Hakimi sprinting into space on the right. His most decisive contribution, though, was to accidentally set up the opening goal for Madrid after 24 minutes. Hakimi, who played at this training ground every day for 12 years having joined the club at the age of eight, delivered a back-pass that ended up being the perfect through ball, bending into the path of Karim Benzema, who stepped around Handanovic and rolled into an open net. Continue reading