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Arnautović helps Inter beat Atlético 1-0 in 1st leg of Champions League last 16

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Arnautović helps Inter beat Atlético 1-0 in 1st leg of Champions League last 16
February 20, 2024
DANIELLA MATAR - AP

MILAN (AP) — Marko Arnautović came off the bench to help Inter Milan to a 1-0 win over Atlético Madrid in the first leg of the Champions League round of 16 on Tuesday.

Arnautović replaced the injured Marcus Thuram at halftime and redeemed himself after missing a couple of early chances by scoring the winning goal 11 minutes from time.

“I’m sorry for Marcus, I never want a player to get injured,” Arnautović told Italian broadcaster Mediaset. “These are my opportunities, I come on to make the difference … it’s not an easy period for me but the third chance went in.”

Initial reports were that Thuram injured a muscle in his right thigh and Inter will be hoping to have the France forward back for the second leg in Madrid on March 13.

Inter was a surprise Champions League finalist last year but appears to have stepped up a level since and looks to be storming to the Serie A title after an eight-match winning streak in all competitions.

Atlético had snapped a three-match winless run with a 5-0 victory over Las Palmas over the weekend and was hoping to carry that momentum into San Siro.

Samuel Lino curled an early effort just past the right post for Atlético but that was a rare chance in a cagey first half until Inter appeared to wake up nine minutes before the break.

Neither goalkeeper had really been tested until Lautaro Martínez, who had fired a good opportunity over the bar moments earlier, saw his header smothered by Jan Oblak.

Lautaro had an even better chance two minutes later when Thuram went on a surging run and rolled across for the Argentina World Cup winner but he scuffed his shot and it was deflected behind off Atlético defender José María Giménez.

Thuram also had an opportunity on the stroke of halftime but had his effort saved by Oblak and immediately then went down with a problem.

The Inter forward, who has emerged as a key player for the Nerazzurri since joining in the offseason, was able to continue after receiving treatment but went off at halftime shaking his head. His father, former Parma and Juventus defender Lilian Thuram, watched at San Siro.

Arnautović could have made an immediate impact when he came sliding in to meet a Federico Dimarco cross only to balloon it over the bar. He later fired another attempt narrowly over after sumptuous play with Lautaro.

Álvaro Morata was brought on by Atlético in the 54th minute, making his return from injury earlier than expected, and immediately set up Lino but he fired wide of the left post.

The visitors had an even better opportunity moments later when Marcos Llorente was sent through on goal but Inter defender Stefan de Vrij managed to get back in time for a last-ditch tackle.

Inter upped the pressure and eventually broke the deadlock when Lautaro surged forward and although Oblak managed to parry his effort Arnautović drilled home the rebound.

___

AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/Soccer

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