Inter’s Europa League campaign came to a lacklustre end as Luka Jovic’s early strike secured Eintracht Frankfurt’s progression into the quarter-finals with a 1-0 win.
Kevin Trapp had been Frankfurt’s hero with his penalty save in the goalless first leg and, without a recognised striker to call on, Luciano Spalletti’s Inter side were toothless throughout Thursday’s meeting.
Jovic showed Inter – still without Mauro Icardi, who has not played since being stripped of the captaincy in mid-February – what they were missing with a composed finish that paved the way for a dominant Frankfurt display at San Siro.
Sebastien Haller hit the woodwork prior to Jovic’s strike and Frankfurt would have had more if not for fine work from Samir Handanovic and Milan Skriniar as Inter, who face AC Milan in a huge Serie A clash on Sunday, went out with a whimper.
Any doubts over Frankfurt’s approach to the contest were put aside after four minutes – Haller hitting the crossbar after Handanovic had kept out Mijat Gacinovic’s effort.
Inter failed to heed that warning, though, and Frankfurt had the lead a minute later when Jovic capitalised on Stefan de Vrij’s misjudgement and lofted a delicate finish over Handanovic.
— Eintracht Frankfurt (@eintracht_eng) March 14, 2019
Haller looked to have made it 2-0 before the half hour, but the offside flag came to Inter’s rescue before the striker and Gacinovic were denied in the same move by Handanovic’s superb double save.
Jovic could have doubled his tally after the restart, only to slip at the vital moment, while Skriniar made a crucial challenge to deny Gacinovic a free shot at goal.
But, despite Jovic heading straight at Handanovic late on, Frankfurt were not made to pay for their profligacy, speculative efforts from Antonio Candreva and Skriniar the most Inter could muster as their European hopes were limply extinguished.
What does it mean? Frankfurt flying Germany’s flag in Europe
With Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich having crashed out of the Champions League, Frankfurt are now the Bundesliga’s sole representatives in Europe, and will rightly harbour hopes of going all the way.
Inter, meanwhile, must now focus on securing Champions League qualification via a top-four finish in Serie A, but their task continues to be overshadowed by doubts over Icardi’s future.
Jovic back on the goal trail
Considering his exploits this season, three games without a goal represented a dip in form for Jovic, but the 21-year-old – who has 15 Bundesliga goals this term – ended his mini draught in typically clinical fashion.
Keita toils in Icardi, Martinez absences
With Icardi not available and Lautaro Martinez suspended, Keita Balde Diao deputised up top for Inter, but despite offering pace and guile, he lacked the nous and positional sense to really test Frankfurt’s line.
It is the Milan derby up next for Inter, who are currently a point behind their city rivals in Serie A as both clubs aim to secure Champions League qualification. Frankfurt, meanwhile, take on Nurnberg as they push for a top-four Bundesliga finish.
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