Inter could have secured their passage to the next round of the Champions League as they visited Tottenham at Wembley, but Christian Eriksen’s late goal kept the English side’s hopes alive.
In the first meeting between the teams at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, the Dane had netted for his side before Inter produced their customary late heroics in the competition this season, although they were given a taste of their own medicine on a cold November’s night in London due to Eriksen’s 80th minute winner.
Inter entered the game in the knowledge that avoiding defeat would be enough to seal their place in the Champions League knockout rounds for the first time since the 2011/12 campaign and, although they didn’t set up solely to contain, they offered little as an offensive threat for much of the first half.
For too much of that period, the Nerazzurri were wasteful in possession, leading to direct and aimless balls in the direction of a hard-working yet frustrated Mauro Icardi.
In fact, it was on Inter’s forays forward that Spurs created their best opportunities, due to their quickness on the counter attack, with the first such opportunity arriving when Radja Nainggolan lost possession (a familiar theme that led to his benching before the break) on the edge of the area and Harry Kaneled an assault on the defence that ended with Dele Alli blasting over.
On the half hour mark, it was another piece of slack play in the final third from Inter which created a Tottenham chance, with Kwadwo Asamoah the guilty party this time.
It led to a lung-bursting Moussa Sissoko run and pass for Lucas Moura, who curled straight at Samir Handanovic.
The closest either side came to a goal in a scoreless first frame arrived on 38 minutes when a patient Spurs build-up ended in Harry Winks firing against the crossbar, while the best Inter opening came in added time when substitute Borja Valero hesitated in the area as he seemed set to pounce for the opener.
Into the second half, a poor pass from Icardi ended their hopes of the all-important goal on what appeared to be a promising break, while Milan Skriniar came within inches of connecting with a delicious deep Ivan Perisic cross to the back post.
In similar circumstances at the other end with 20 minutes remaining, a centre-back popped up at the far post and this time he really should have scored, only for the returning Jan Vertonghen to send his header the wrong side of the post.
Some delightful interplay between Valero and Perisic almost led to the opener only for a strong Hugo Lloris hand to keep out the Croatian and that save proved all the more important with 10 minutes remaining when the goalkeeper’s side went in front.
The Londoners broke dangerously down the right flank and, when Inter’s defence failed to put in the crucial tackle, they were made to pay for it.
Alli picked out substitute Eriksen to fire in with aplomb, leaving Luciano Spalletti’s men with work to do when they welcome PSV to Italy next month and when Tottenham visit Barcelona.