Real Madrid boosted their chances of reaching the Champions League knockout stages after a late winner by substitute Rodrygo gave them a 3-2 home victory over Inter Milan in an absorbing Group B clash on Tuesday.
The result left Real, winners of a record 13 titles in Europe’s premier club competition, level on four points with Shakhtar Donetsk, one point behind leaders Borussia Moenchengladbach and two ahead of bottom-placed Inter.
Real had thrown away a two-goal lead and were flirting with a defeat which would have piled more pressure on manager Zinedine Zidane before their Brazilian duo of Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo combined to save the day.
Chances had gone begging at either end before Karim Benzema gave the home side a 25th-minute lead, rounding goalkeeper Samir Handanovic and slotting home after intercepting a dreadful back pass by Real’s former wing-back Achraf Hakimi.
The hosts seemed to be cruising after 33 minutes when Sergio Ramos headed their second — his 100th goal for the club in all competitions — but Lautaro Martinez pulled one back for Inter two minutes later thanks to a sublime assist by Nicolo Barella.
Real were rattled when Ivan Perisic equalised midway through the second half, threading a shot into the far corner from close range after Martinez headed the ball into the Croatian’s stride.
Inter then missed a pair of gilt-edged chances as Martinez shaved the outside of the post with a shot from the edge of the area and Perisic fired wide, with Real’s defence in tatters.
The Italians were punished for their misses, however, as Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo, brought into the fray together by Zidane shortly before Inter’s equaliser, carved out the winner from a lightning fast break.
Vinicius Junior raced clear of his marker down the left flank and squared the ball back to Rodrygo, who beat Handanovic with an unstoppable shot into the top corner from 10 metres.
“Zidane asked me to go for goal… I’m always ready so that when I come on I can do something, a goal or an assist, to help the team,” Rodygo said after the match. “When I play in the Champions League it’s a special night, I hope to keep going like that.”
Zidane added praise for his influential substitutes on the night.
“The changes were to try to do something. The move for the third goal was really good. We had to get the three points, with what Vini and Rodrygo did, a beautiful goal, we have to be happy with both of them,” he said.
Inter are now under pressure halfway through the group stage to turn their fortunes around and will hope to have striker Romelu Lukaku back for the reverse fixture on Nov. 25 after the Belgium striker missed the match with a thigh injury.
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