Champions League takeaways: Inter leaves it late, PSV benefits from iffy penalty call


The knockout stage of the UEFA Champions League resumed on Tuesday with another pair of round of 16 first-leg matches.

In Italy, last year’s runners-up Inter Milan beat Spain’s Atlético Madrid on a late goal by Marko Arnautović, while German side Borussia Dortmund settled for a frustrating 1-1 tie with PSV Eindhoven in the Netherlands.

Here are three quick takeaways from Tuesday’s games.

Dortmund undone by controversial penalty

The first half of BVB’s match at Philips Stadion in Eindhoven couldn’t have gone much better for the visitors. Desperate not to head back to Germany needing a win to advance to the quarterfinals, the home side came out the gates in a high-risk, high-reward attacking posture. PSV dominated the ball and sent nine first-half shots toward the Dortmund goal, which was manned by backup keeper Alex Meyer after starter Gregor Kobel suffered an injury in warmups.

And it nearly worked: PSV’s Malik Tillman squandered a pair of glorious chances to put the hosts ahead in the two-game, aggregate goals series. Dortmund, meantime, capitalized on one of their only opportunities after Tillman was dispossessed in midfield and Donyell Malen unleashed a wicked shot from a tight angle that glanced off defender Sergiño Dest and into the PSV net.

Dortmund was sitting pretty at that point. But the home side caught a break when Mats Hummels took down Tillman in the box early in the second half. The referee pointed to the penalty spot — a decision that was somewhat surprisingly confirmed by his video assistant. Replays appeared to show Hummels making contact with the ball before tripping Tillman. The defender vehemently pleaded his case. It didn’t matter, as Luuk de Jong stepped up and easily beat Meyer from 12-yards to level the score.

The call changed the momentum of the match, and Dortmund was probably lucky to escape with a share of the spoils in the end. Afterward, Hummels let everyone know what he thought of the penalty in a scathing social media post:

Mission accomplished for Inter Milan

Ever since UEFA got rid of the away goals tiebreaker two seasons ago, the calculations have changed in the first match of the home-and-home. Gone are the days when a visitor might risk conceding if they can steal one at the other end. For home teams, a scoreless tie is no longer an acceptable result.

So like PSV in Tuesday’s other contest, Inter came out with only one objective: to win. Meantime, Atlético Madrid coach Deigo Simeone would’ve been more than happy to return to the Spanish capital on even terms — which is why he trotted out a startling lineup featuring five defenders.

The game plan was a sound one. For almost 80 minutes, Inter kept knocking on the door but couldn’t find the goal it needed. But they made a fatal mistake before it was over, a mix-up in midfield springing star striker Lautaro Martínez on a lightning-fast counterattack. Jan Oblak made a spectacular stop to deny the Argentine, but substitute Arnautović — who’d missed a good scoring opportunity earlier — hit the target this time:

There was no time for Atléti to recover after that. When the final whistle blew a short time later, Simeone’s team hadn’t managed a single shot on goal. They’ll need at least two in the March 13 decider if they are to advance.

PSV’s Americans make history

For the first time ever, two members of the United States men’s national team — Dest and Tillman — started a knockout stage match in the world’s top club competition. Both players played a major role in PSV’s 1-1 draw and each logged the full 90 minutes.

They were then joined by yet another USMNT regular in the second half when striker Ricardo Pepi entered off the substitute’s bench. But while Pepi couldn’t find the game-winner (Dest elected to shoot from an acute angle late instead of squaring the ball to a wide-open Pepi on the doorstep), he did help achieve another milestone for American soccer: Never before had three U.S. players been on the field during a Champions League knockout game at the same time.

Doug McIntyre is a soccer writer for FOX Sports. Before joining FOX Sports in 2021, he was a staff writer with ESPN and Yahoo Sports and he has covered United States men’s and women’s national teams at multiple FIFA World Cups. Follow him on Twitter @ByDougMcIntyre.

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