BERLIN (Reuters) - Borussia Moenchengladbach's missed opportunities to earn points early in the Champions League campaign may come back to haunt them after Tuesday's 3-2 home loss to Inter Milan left with a final group decider at Real Madrid.
The Foals, who have never qualified for the knockout stage of the modern Champions League, have played their most exciting European season in decades. However, late equalisers in draws against Real and Inter in October could now prove costly.
Inter needed a 90th minute equaliser by Romelu Lukaku in Italy on Oct. 21 to rescue a 2-2 draw. A week later Real were even more desperate, forced to score twice in the dying minutes to salvage their own 2-2 against the Germans, who had thought they had won it with a superb performance over 87 minutes.
"Now we have our final against Real Madrid," said Gladbach captain Christoph Kramer following their first group loss of the season.
"We are still in the mix and have the best starting position of all four teams. We just have to seal qualification in Madrid."
Gladbach are top of Group B on eight points, one ahead of both Shakhtar Donetsk and out-of-form Real Madrid, who were beaten 2-0 by the Ukrainians. Inter are on five points and need to beat Ukraine's Shakhtar to have any of advance, as all four teams can still qualify on the final matchday.
The Germans need at least a point next week in Madrid to secure their knockout berth and given their form this season it is by no means impossible.
Real have been faltering in recent weeks, having also lost 2-1 to Alaves in La Liga last week to drop to fourth place, and Gladbach's attack with 16 goals in five games is the joint-best of the entire Champions League group stage.
The Germans thought for a moment they had earned a point against Inter when Alassane Plea, who had scored both earlier goals, put the ball in the net again in the 84th minute.
Instead of it being a 3-3 equaliser, the effort was ruled off side by VAR.
"We are obviously very disappointed because once more this season we were very close to getting a good result which we deserved," Gladbach coach Marco Rose said. "Now we just have to go to Madrid and finish it."
(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Christian Radnedge)