Real Sociedad holds Inter to goalless draw to secure historic Group D top spot

Real Sociedad holds Inter to goalless draw to secure historic Group D top spot

MILAN — Real Sociedad held Inter Milan to a goalless draw on Tuesday to secure the top spot in Champions League Group D, with the visitors progressing to the knockout stages as leaders for the first time.

The LaLiga side arrived unbeaten at the San Siro stadium and already sure of a place in the last 16. They finished on 12 points, the same as Inter, who took second place on goal difference.

“This is sheer joy. You only have to look at all the fans that have come here,” Real midfielder Martin Zubimendi told Movistar.

“At the beginning, this objective (winning the group) was a bit complicated but once we got going we achieved it. It’s incredible.”

Real dominated possession throughout an unexciting first half where they failed to record a single shot on goal. Inter, who had started with a counter-attacking game, squandered their single chance to open the scoring just before the break.

Simone Inzaghi’s side looked more dangerous in the second half as Serie A top scorer Lautaro Martinez came on to the pitch, but the Argentine was unable to capitalize on his chances in the box.

“We knew we had to play a slow game, with a lot of possession. We managed to do that, especially in the first half, but we had to always be careful with the counterattacks because one-on-one they have some lethal players,” added Mr. Zubimendi, who was named man of the match.

The Basques thought they were on course for victory with a penalty that was eventually disallowed by the VAR, while Takefusa Kubo was booked for simulating a foul in the box 15 minutes from time.

“We knew that second place would make for a tougher draw, but I don’t want to see sad faces, I only want to see smiles as we finished the group unbeaten,” Inter manager Inzaghi told Mediaset and Sky Sport Italia.

“We are in the round of 16 for the third year running. We are very satisfied. We wanted another win in front of our fans, we tried until the 95th minute. We were up against a quality opponent and Inter had the best scoring opportunities.

“We’ll see what the draw has to say. We finished second in the group last season and reached the final, after all,” he said.

The round-of-16 draw will be made on Monday.

In the other Group D fixture, Portuguese champions Benfica snatched a 3-1 win over RB Salzburg to clinch third place with four points and progress to the Europa League knockout stages on goal difference. — Reuters