Real Madrid improved their chances of finishing in the Champions League knockout stages after a late winner by substituting Rodrygo gave them a 3-2 home victory over Inter Milan in the absorbing Group B clash on Tuesday.
The result left Real, winner of a record 13 titles in the European premier club competition, on four points with Shakhtar Donetsk, one point behind Borussia Moenchengladbach, and two points ahead of Inter.
Real had thrown away a two-goal lead and flirted with a loss that would have put more pressure on manager Zinedine Zidane before their Brazilian duo Vinicius Junior and Rodrigo combined to save the day.
Chances had gone begging at either end until Karim Benzema gave the home side a 25-minute advantage, rounding off goaltender Samir Handanovic and slotting home after intercepting a terrible back pass by Real’s former wing-back Achraf Hakimi.
The hosts seemed to be cruising after 33 minutes when Sergio Ramos headed his second goal – his 100th goal for the club in all competitions – but Lautaro Martinez pulled one back for Inter two minutes later thanks to the sublime assistance of Nicoló Barella.
Real was rattled when Ivan Perisic equalized halfway through the second half, threading a shot in the far corner from close range after Martinez headed the ball into the Croatian stride. Inter then missed a pair of golden opportunities as Martinez shaved the outside of the post with a shot from the edge of the area and Perisic fired deep, with Real’s defense in tatters.
The Italians were punished for their misses, however, as Vinicius Júnior and Rodrygo, brought together by Zidane shortly before Inter’s equalizer, carved out the winner of a fast break. Vinicius Junior sped clear of his marker on the left side and squared the ball back to Rodrygo, who beat Handanovic with an unstoppable 10-meter shot in the top corner.
Inter is now under pressure, halfway through the group stage, to turn their fortunes around and expect to have Romelu Lukaku back for the reverse fixture on 25 November, when the Belgian striker missed the match with a thigh injury.