Inter marks Champs League return with win over Tottenham
MILAN (AP) — Time was winding down and Inter Milan was headed toward defeat in its first Champions League match in six years. Then everything changed in just six minutes.
Mauro Icardi sent the crowd of 64,123 into a frenzy when the Inter captain volleyed in a stunning equalizer against Tottenham with four minutes remaining, and the noise in San Siro grew even louder when Matias Vecino headed in the winner in injury time.
That completed a 2-1 comeback win for the Italian club, a fitting way to mark its return to Europe’s top club competition. Especially since it was Vecino’s late goal in the final Serie A match of last season that made sure Inter qualified for the Champions League in the first place.
“Maybe it was destiny that the ball fell to me but I think the team showed a lot of character to believe right until the end and turn the match around against such a good team as Tottenham,” Vecino said.
Inter will be hoping to use the result as a launching pad after just one win in its four opening Serie A matches.
“We play for ourselves, to get important results, to win matches,” Vecino added. “We know there will always be criticism but we have to take the positive things and be our own critics.
“It’s true that it’s been a few matches that when we’ve gone behind we haven’t managed to come back. Today we did it, it didn’t seem possible but what’s important is to believe in ourselves right until the end.”
For Tottenham, it was the team’s third straight 2-1 loss in all competitions.
“There is a bad feeling in the dressing room, because we lost,” Spurs midfielder Erik Lamela said. “The only way to recover from this is to put in everything on the pitch and to get back to winning ways.
“We haven’t lost confidence. We believe in each other and the team, that’s why we always fight until the end of the season. Inside the dressing room we believe and it is time for us to win again.”
Tottenham coach Mauricio Pochettino had opted to leave World Cup semifinalists Kieran Trippier and Toby Alderweireld at home and he grew tetchy with journalists when asked if he regretted that decision.
“You disrespect the players that today showed better qualities than the opponent,” Pochettino said. “You can blame me and say, ‘Gaffer, you were so, so rubbish in your selection of the starting 11’. But please don’t disrespect the players who were playing, because it’s my decision.”
Pochettino, who said it was Tottenham’s best performance of the season, added: “When my decision is to play with (a certain) 11, you must respect my decision because I am the manager. You show too much disrespect for the players who play in the position as the players you have given me the names of now.”
Tottenham took the lead somewhat against the run of play in the 53rd minute.
Christian Eriksen’s initial shot was parried by Samir Handanovic but the Inter defense failed to clear the danger. The ball came back to the Denmark international and his second attempt took a huge deflection off Joao Miranda and floated over Handanovic.
However, Icardi pounced four minutes from time with a powerful volley into the bottom corner from 20 yards out. That inspired Inter and they poured forward. After earlier chances to snatch the winner, a corner was nodded on to Vecino who headed in in the second minute of stoppage time.
It was Inter’s first game in the competition since 2012 and before the match the Nerazzurri fans had unfurled a huge banner with the words: “We are back.”
The same can’t be said for Harry Kane’s scoring form, as the Tottenham forward’s post-World Cup struggles continued.
Kane was the top scorer at the tournament in Russia with six goals in England’s run to the semifinals, but the 25-year-old has not found the back of the net since a 3-0 victory over Manchester United last month.
He went closest in the 37th minute as he sprung the offside trap to meet Eriksen’s ball over the top but Handanovic forced the England forward wide and he couldn’t find the angle to shoot.
Kane also had another chance at the end of the first half but was denied by Handanovic.
Tottenham goalkeeper Michel Vorm had been criticized after Sunday’s 2-1 defeat to Liverpool but he did well to prevent Inter from equalizing immediately, getting down smartly to deny Ivan Perisic. Vorm, who is deputizing for the injured Hugo Lloris, also prevented an own goal in the first half with a flying save as Davinson Sanchez’s diving header appeared to be heading into the back of his own net.