- The 34-year-old came off the bench and scored the winning goal at San Siro.
- Inter Milan beat Atlético de Madrid in the first leg of the European round of 16
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It took three attempts but former West Ham striker Marko Arnautovic finally hit the target to give Inter Milan a narrow lead over Atletico Madrid in the first leg of their Champions League round of 16 tie.
The Austrian replaced the injured Marcus Thuram at half-time and headed away Inter’s first chance of the second half. Then, on the hour mark, he spurned a glorious opening after making a wall pass with Lautaro Martínez.
Axel Witsel touched the Argentine’s return to the Austrian, but still ran towards him. Just outside the six-yard box he only had Jan Oblak to beat, but he leaned back and shot over.
When the opportunity came for the third time, he made no mistake. Reinildo Mandava lost possession just inside his own half. Martínez broke quickly and shot at the goal. Oblak saved well but the ball ran towards Arnautovic and this time he scored so that Samuel Lino desperately tried to deflect the shot from him on the goal line.
It was no more than Inter deserved after dominating the match against Diego Simeone’s men. It still may not be enough against Atlético, who are formidable at home and will presumably show more ambition in the second leg.
Marko Arnautovic came off the bench to score the winning goal at San Siro
The first half was cautious for both sides with neither team wanting to concede first. But Inter soon began to show a greater offensive threat and had three opportunities to open the scoring. First there was a cross that bounced and appeared to hit Nahuel Molina in the upper arm only for referee Istvan Kovacs to signal for play to continue.
Then came their best opening 10 minutes before the break when Rodrigo de Paul’s careless pass went straight to Thuram and he lunged forward. He rebounded off Witsel’s challenge and faced Martínez whose shot was blocked by Mario Hermoso.
Martínez then set up Thuram, but Jan Oblak saved once again. This time the chance had come after Marcos Llorente lost the ball. Atlético lacked the necessary precision to last the 90 minutes at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza without conceding goals.
Inter had come into the game having lost only one of their last 13 in the Champions League, and that was last season’s final against Manchester City.
Both teams were forced to make changes at half-time as the injured Thuram was unable to continue and was replaced by Arnautovic for Inter. Atlético lost José Giménez with the entry of Stefan Savic and Simeone also added a striker when, 10 minutes into the second half, Saúl came off and Álvaro Morata came on, with Llorente returning to midfield.
Denzel Dumfries was next for Inter and when he got behind the Atlético defense on their left it seemed inevitable that someone would return his cross. Somehow, Savic was able to control and clear with a cool head from inside his own six-yard box.
Martínez was the next to approach, but Oblak saved his header from close range. Atlético was teetering on the verge of falling. And it was Arnautovic who got them there with the only goal of the game.