Rodrygo came off the bench to score a late goal to earn Real Madrid a hard-fought 3-2 victory over Inter in Group B of the 2020/21 Champions League on Tuesday night at the Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano.
Los Blancos held a two-goal lead through Karim Benzema and Sergio Ramos, only to see Inter battle back through Lautaro Martinez and Ivan Perisic. Right when it looked like Inter would surge ahead and deliver a big blow to Real Madrid’s European hopes, young Brazilians Vinicius and Rodrygo teamed up for the winning goal, giving Real Madrid their first win in this season’s Champions League.
There were no surprises in the starting XI of Zinedine Zidane, who went with his strongest possible players, the lone exception being Lucas Vazquez filling in for the injured Dani Carvajal at right-back. Each side had early chances, first for Real Madrid when an Eden Hazard cut-back pass found Marco Asensio, whose shot was tipped over the crossbar to safety by Inter goalkeeper Samir Handanovic. At the other end, an Inter counter attack saw Nicolo Barrella send a header toward goal that twice bounced on the crossbar before falling out of play.
It was an open affair between the two sides, but it took a massive error to break the deadlock, as former Real Madrid man Achraf Hakimi played a poorly weighted back pass toward Handanovic, making it easy for Benzema to scoop up, round the Inter No.1 and slide a shot into goal for a 1-0 lead. The momentum was with Real Madrid and the second score came in short order in classic style, with a corner kick curled into the area and Ramos meeting it at the first post and turning a header into net to double the advantage.
But Real Madrid switched off right after the Ramos goal and an exquisite backheel from Barella set up Lautaro, who fired into net to make it a 2-1 contest going into half time. Things grew testy as the clock rolled past the hour mark, which was when Zidane made his first two changes, bringing on the Brazilian pair of Vinicius and Rodrygo for Hazard and Asensio.
After turning in the first Inter goal of the evening, Lautaro then got to play the role of provider, popping a header over to Perisic, who made a slight move to gain space on Lucas Vazquez and slip in a shot past Courtois to even things at 2-2.
Inter were keen to get a third and Lautaro came within inches of doing it off a Ferland Mendy error with a curling right-footer that glanced the far post. But instead it went Real Madrid’s way thanks to the first two substitutes, as a Vinicius cross from the left met the right foot of Rodrygo, who hammered a shot into net for a 3-2 lead.
It should have been four for Zidane’s men when Lucas Vazquez floated a perfect cross into Benzema, but the French striker badly misplayed it to spoil the chance. In the end, no fourth goal was needed, as the Real Madrid defence battened down the hatches to secure the valuable three points.