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Inter Milan advances to Champions League round of 16 after late goal against Salzburg

Photo: Vlad Indrei

In a crucial Champions League clash, Inter Milan clinched a spot in the knockout stage with a narrow 1-0 victory over Salzburg on Wednesday, with Lautaro Martínez proving to be the game-changer off the bench.

Initially rested by Inter coach Simone Inzaghi, Martínez's entry in the 68th minute, along with the introduction of Nicolò Barella, breathed new life into the team. It was Barella's determined play that earned the penalty, skillfully converted by Martínez in the 85th minute, marking his 14th goal of the season in all competitions.

Photo: Vlad Indrei

The win propels Inter to the top of Group D, level on 10 points with Real Sociedad, who also secured their place in the round of 16 following Inter's result, having defeated Benfica 3-1 earlier in the day. On the other hand, Salzburg currently holds three points, while Benfica remains at zero.

Entering the match with a run of five consecutive wins, Serie A leaders Inter understood the significance of securing victory in Austria to progress in Europe. Despite the high tempo from the start, both teams struggled to create clear-cut chances until Inzaghi's strategic substitutions altered the course of the game.

Martínez, known for his impactful performances off the bench, nearly broke the deadlock eight minutes from time with a powerful header, only to be denied by an extraordinary save from Salzburg's Alexander Schlager, who tipped the ball onto the crossbar. However, Martínez's persistence paid off as he confidently converted the decisive penalty three minutes later, capitalizing on a handball from Salzburg's Mads Bidstrup.

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