Champions League last 16: Inter bank on veteran Arnautovic after winner against Atletico

Dortmund remain confident of progress after battling draw in Eindhoven

Inter Milan's Austrian forward Marko Arnautovic celebrates after scoring the winner against Atletico Madrid at San Siro. AFP
Powered by automated translation

Inter Milan manager Simone Inzaghi put his faith in veteran striker Marko Arnautovic after the misfiring Austria forward redeemed himself with the winner against Atletico Madrid on Tuesday.

Arnautovic's solitary strike settled the Champions League last-16 first-leg clash at San Siro after he had replaced the injured Marcus Thuram at half-time.

The former West Ham and Stoke player had already missed a string of good chances, including one sitter, before firing home from close range to give the Italians a slender advantage in the tie.

The 34-year-old will be needed again in the coming days and weeks with Thuram likely to miss some games.

"He will be really valuable to us as he has been up to now. He and Alexis Sanchez are doing well for how they work, how they train and how they are with teammates," Inzaghi said.

"He came into the match really well, we were disappointed for the chances he missed but strikers should worry when they're not getting any opportunities.

"I was a striker, I had periods in which I didn't have any chances and I was always more worried than when I did have them and I either had a great goalkeeper in front of me or I missed the target."

Inzaghi said that he hoped to lose Thuram only "for a short period of time" before he has tests on the thigh injury which ended his match.

Visitors Atletico failed to muster a single shot on target against Inter's miserly defence, but boss Diego Simeone remains hopeful of progress.

"We didn't have many chances unlike recent games. We controlled the match for long periods, but in the second half they created more chances," he said.

"I'm optimistic, we lost today but we still have the home leg to play. We know what we'll come up against, and how they play as we've just played them. Hopefully we'll be able to take advantage."

Elsewhere, the last-16 tie in Eindhoven between hosts PSV and Borussia Dortmund ended all square on Tuesday night.

Former PSV player Donyell Malen opened the scoring for the visitors but Luuk de Jong's penalty earned a 1-1 draw for the Eredivisie leaders.

Dortmund enjoyed a strong start to the game but in the end were perhaps lucky to leave with a draw as the hosts grew into the tie.

"I think that we had the second half under control, at least I had that feeling," said PSV midfielder Joey Veerman. "And in the first half we had the bigger chances. So, overall, we had the best possibility of winning."

Dortmund defender Nico Schlotterbeck, who will miss the second leg through suspension, said their home advantage for the return will ultimately prove decisive.

He said: "We know we still have the second leg to play. Then, there will be 80,000 people on a Champions League night. We are unbeatable there. We did a decent job today - even against Luuk de Jong. But with the ball, we need to show more in the second leg, and we will."

The last 16 continues on Wednesday as Arsenal visit Porto and Napoli entertain Barcelona. Both games kick off at midnight UAE time.

Updated: February 21, 2024, 11:27 AM