Malcom scores as Barcelona go through
Malcom came on in the 81st minute and had an immediate impact. Icardi levelled six minutes later to deny Barça guaranteed top spot in group B
Inter vs Barcelona: match report
Barcelona and Inter shared the spoils at the San Siro in a frantic, intense and end-to-end game, with goals from Malcolm and Icardi coming late on and just four minutes apart.
If the visitors were missing Messi for anything, it was that killer instinct in front of goal. With 65 percent of the possession and ten shots on goal (four on target), the visitors dominated the first half, but failed to take their chances. Although nothing can be taken away from Inter keeper Handanovic, who had to make four decent saves to keep Barca at bay – the best of which denied Coutinho, who hit a low and hard strike from range that was going straight for the bottom left corner.
The front three of Coutinho, Suarez and Dembélé were a handful for the Inter defence all through the first half, with Suarez having a couple of chances from close range, but the Uruguayan failed to capitalize on them.
Inter, for their part, had a couple of moments with the little possession they had, the best of which fell to Kwadwo Asamoah, who, after making a darting run down the left, played it forward to Perisic. The winger squared it back to the oncoming Asamoah who had continued his run into the box, but the left back’s close range effort was just wide. Having done all they could to deal with the Barca bombardment, the hosts were no doubt happy to hear the half-time whistle as they looked to regroup at the break.
The frantic, intensity of the game did not let up in the second half, the only difference was that Inter played a more prominent role, with wingers Politano and Perisic creating problems for Barca down both flanks. And in the 65th minute, Inter should have gone one-nil up when Perisic broke down the left. The Croatian winger put a beautifully weighted cross into the box to pick out the run of the oncoming and unmarked Politano, whose header from close range sailed wide of the right-hand post.
Barcelona, however, continued to dominate possession and almost took the lead five minutes before Politano’s chance through Rakitic. The visitors found themselves in a three-on-two with Rakitic on the overlap on the right. Suarez put the ball into this path, and Rakitic, with only the keeper to beat, could not put it in the back of the net.
Barca continued to plug away and eventually got their just awards in the 83rd minute. Coutinho played a simple pass forward to substitute Malcolm, who, with his first play of the game, made space for himself inside the box on the right to drive his shot past Handanovic into the bottom left corner – 1-0 to the visitors.
But Inter’s fighting spirit did not let up and within four minutes they were level. Sergio Busquets failed to properly deal with an Inter cross from the right, and Vecino was first to spring on the loose ball in the box. Vecino’s shot was deflected, but only to land at the feet of his teammate Mauro Icardi, who was somehow completely unmarked by the six yard box. Three Barca defenders came rushing towards him but they were too late; the Argentinean struck the ball low and through the legs of Ter Stegen to even the scoring. And that was the last meaningful piece of action before the referee blew the game up a few minutes later.
With just a third of the possession and one shot on target, which they converted, Inter will be happy to have secured the point. Barca, meanwhile will be frustrated and disappointed that they did not take some of their earlier chances to see off the hosts. But they leave Milan with a point and their place guaranteed in the last 16.
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Inter vs Barcelona match preview:
Barcelona travel to Italy to take on Inter Milan in Group B of the Champions League, with Ernesto Valverde’s side knowing a win will see them through the last 16 of the competition with two group games to spare.
Having beaten Inter 2-0 at home at the Camp Nou two weeks ago, Barcelona have nine points from three games and are in a commanding position going into the game. The big question surrounding the Blaugrana is whether their captain Lionel Messi will start the game.
The Argentinian talisman is back in the squad this week after fracturing his arm two weeks ago, and coach Valverde said they would wait to until today to decide if he was fit enough to play. If he doesn’t start, Brazil’s Rafinha could step into his position ahead of Dembélé and Malcolm, joining Suarez and Coutinho up front. With or without Messi, Barcelona are favourites to win this tie, and have won three of their last five games against the Italian side.
But Valverde said he is expecting a better Inter to the one that lost at the Camp Nou two weeks ago. Since that loss, the Italian club have won their last two Serie A games by an aggregate score of 8-0, and will go into the game with confidence and with star man Radja Nainggolan, who missed the game in Barcelona two weeks ago, available.
Inter, of course, also have their own deadly Argentine striker in the form of Mauro Icardi, who will look to cause problems for Pique and Lenglet in the Barca defence. Icardi has eight goals from 11 games – two in the Champions League – and if Inter manage to pull off a win tonight, the Rosario-born striker’s contribution will be vital. Second in the group behind Barca with six points, a draw or win would put the Serie A side in a strong position to qualify for the last 16.
Coach Luciano Spalletti has no injury worries for tonight’s game, but will be without Dalbert and Roberto Gagliardini, who are ineligible to play in the Champions League.
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