An Edin Dzeko double ensured that Inter Milan defeated Shakhtar Donetsk to qualify for the Round of 16 of the UEFA Champions League.

Inter Milan had Edin Dzeko to thank as a brace from the Bosnian international ensured they handed a 2-0 defeat to Shakhtar Donetsk and qualified for the UEFA Champions League Round of 16.

This is the first time that they have managed to clear the group stages since 2011/12. It is also the maiden occasion since 2011/12 that the Nerazzurri have won three Champions League group stage games in the same season.

The Serie A champions dominated proceedings on the night and knew that a win at home, coupled with dropped points for Sheriff Tiraspol, would help them qualify for the Round of 16. It was exactly what happened on the night.

Inter had numerous opportunities to score in the first half but failed to make their chances count. The last three matches between the two sides had all ended in a 0-0 stalemate, and it appeared that the trend would continue. Dzeko, however, had other ideas.

Two goals in six minutes ensured that the Italian champions came out on top on the night. Inter will face Real Madrid in their final group game with the top spot in the group on the line. The loss, however, marks the end of this season’s European adventure for Shakhtar. The Ukrainians are rock bottom with one point from five games and have little to play for but pride in their last match against Sheriff.

The victory marks what has been a wonderful few days for Simone Inzaghi’s side. They defeated league leaders Napoli at the weekend and have ensured their continued participation on Europe’s top table. While European glory might prove to be a bridge too far, the good run of results could prove to be a tipping point as far as their title defence is concerned.

Whether Inzaghi’s men will keep the run going remains to be seen. For now, The Hard Tackle takes a look at how the Nerazzurri players fared on the night.

Samir Handanovic: 5/10

The veteran goalkeeper had a very manageable day in the office but contrived to make life harder for himself. While he was largely untroubled by Shakhtar, he still made several simple errors throughout the game. Clearly, age is catching up to him.

Milan Skriniar: 6/10

The 26-year-old was rather solid and kept things simple on the night. He dealt with whatever was thrown his way and used his physicality to great effect. Skriniar was admittedly not at his very best, but he had no reason to be given the opposition.

Andrea Ranocchia: 6/10 

The veteran replaced Stefan de Vrij in the starting lineup and was up to the task. He initially struggled and had a tough time dealing with Fernando’s pace. Ranocchia improved as the game went on and adapted to the opposition in the second half. He missed a golden opportunity to put his side ahead in the first half. Overall, he was reliable on the night.

Alessandro Bastoni: 7/10

Bastoni had to be alert all night, given Shakhtar preferred to attack down his flank. The youngster, however, held his own and was able to stop the opposition attacks with minimal fuss. He also looked comfortable in possession and brought the ball out from the back with calmness and poise.

Matteo Darmian: 7/10

The veteran full-back managed to keep his spot following the impressive outing against Napoli. While he did look tired, it did not impact his game adversely. Darmian was solid on the night and a rock at the back. He also did a good job getting forward and fulfilled his dual role with minimal fuss.

Nicolo Barella: 7/10

The Italian international is a handful on his day and looked in the mood on the night. His pressing opened up many opportunities, but unfortunately, Barella failed to capitalise on them. He drove forward with purpose whenever he could and can count himself unfortunate not to find the back of the net.

Marcelo Brozovic: 7/10

The Croatian international was largely the composer in midfield and ensured that Inter won the battle in the middle of the park. His all-action performance gave the likes of Barella and Haan Calhanoglu more chances to get forward. A solid and uncompromising performance.

Hakan Calhanoglu: 6/10

The Turkish ace had a mixed night, as some sublime touches on the ball were also met by quiet moments where he went missing. Calhanoglu failed to showcase his outstanding ability on the dead ball and even managed to strike a corner out of play.

Ivan Perisic: 9/10

A sensational performance by the Croatian veteran, who was solid defensively and could keep Dodo on a tight leash. It was, however, at the other end where he excelled. Perisic made numerous forays forward and will count himself unlucky not to have scored. He did also grab himself a well-earned assist in the second half.

Lautaro Martinez: 6/10

The Argentine Dynamo gave it his all on the pitch and was not short of effort at all. He kept trying all night and was involved in a couple of penalty calls that went ungiven. He admittedly had several chances that went begging. Thankfully, Inter did not have to pay the price for his profligacy. Lautaro Martinez enjoyed as busy a night as a player can have sans scoring or assisting.

Edin Dzeko: 9/10 

The Bosnian’s twin strikes in the second half largely flatter him, given the opportunities he missed early on. Thankfully, Dzeko turned the tide in the second half and helped his side to a key win. He looks to be a stellar signing who has made it a habit of scoring important goals for the Italians.

SUBSTITUTES

Joaquin Correa: 5/10

Correa replaced Martinez in the 68th minute but offered little going forward. He looked bereft of ideas and will need to do much better to have an impact this season.

Arturo Vidal: 5/10

A pale shadow of the player he was before the international break. Vidal did not put a foot wrong but did not do much right either. A largely passable appearance off the bench for the Chilean.

Danilo D’Ambrosio: 6/10

D’Ambrosio replaced the excellent Darmain and held his own on the night. A multi-utility player, his versatility gives Simone Inzaghi different options.

Federico Dimarco: N/A

Dimarco was introduced late on for a tiring Perisic. Given the Croat’s run of form, Dimarco could be set for a spell on the bench in the games to come.

Stefano Sensi: N/A

The UEFA Euro 2020 winner is slowly but surely getting back to full fitness. An important player when available, he went close to grabbing a third for Inter late on.

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