Match Reviews

Inter Milan 1-1 Barcelona, Champions League: Match Review

Barcelona’s winning run in the Champions League came to an end as the Catalans earned a single point against Inter. Even though Barcelona dominated pretty much all attacking statistics they couldn’t break through until late in the second half with Malcom scoring – only to allow the equalizer just minutes later to former La Masia graduate Mauro Icardi.

Looking to secure a first place finish before the last two rounds, Ernesto Valverde fielded a strong lineup – with the only change from the most recent run of games coming on the right wing where Ousmane Dembele returned to the starting XI in place of Rafinha.

The hosts threatened quickly as they immediately ventured forward and Matías Vecino looked to open the scoring just 30 seconds in, but Marc-Andre ter Stegen made the save. Barcelona countered on the very next attack, warming the hands of Samir Handanović with Dembele taking aim from outside of the box.

After early chances for both sides, Barcelona took control of the ball and started to buzz inside Inter’s half. Their attacking aspirations were troubled by Inter’s very high press, but the Catalans were often able to play around the pressure without many problems. The visitors created their next chance in the 12th minute when Handanović cleared poorly and was intercepted in the midfield before the ball moved quickly forward to Luis Suarez who skipped past Milan Škriniar and fired on goal, but the Slovenian in goal corrected his mistake with a save.

The rain started to pick up as Inter threatened from a free kick from the right side in the 16th minute, but the Barcelona defense calmly cleared. In the 19th minute the hosts created their first chance from open play after the first minute, but Kwadwo Asamoah couldn’t bury Ivan Perišić low pass from the left side. Barcelona quickly returned to the attack and could’ve taken the lead just two minutes later after a cheeky try from Suarez, but the Uruguayan just missed the target.

In the 24th minute Ivan Rakitić fired a 30-yard rocked toward goal, but just missed the far post of Handanović who was a mere spectator of the shot. Five minutes later Philippe Coutinho took aim from distance, but couldn’t get his shot on goal. The very next minute Barcelona were buzzing inside the area once again, but Suarez blocked Dembele’s left-footed shot after the young Frenchman brilliantly left two defenders in the dust. From the following corner kick the visitors threatened again, but Suarez couldn’t find the goal with his shot.

While Barcelona were often found on the offensive, Inter always looked dangerous in attack as well, but their attacks weren’t as frequent. However, Barcelona’s back-line excellently dealt with everything thrown at them. On the other end of the pitch, Handanović was much more involved compared to ter Stegen and the Slovenian had to make another save in the 37th minute, this time stopping Coutinho. Handanović would make another fabulous save just four minutes later, stopping Suarez who took a shot from 16-yards out.

Barcelona would launch a couple more attacks before the halftime whistle, but the two teams would remain scoreless going into the break.

Neither manager made any changes during halftime. As soon as play resumed Barcelona were back on the offensive, but their early attacks weren’t very decisive. The Catalans fired their first shot of the second half seven minutes in, with Coutinho making a good run on goal down the left side before firing on goal, but Handanovic made his fourth save.

Five minutes later, Clement Lenglet won an aerial duel on an offensive corner kick – something he’s made a habit of doing – but his header missed high. Barcelona finally found the back of the net in the 60th minute when Suarez buried Rakitić’s cut-back, after Handanović saved the Croatian’s shot, but the referees correctly ruled out the goal as the ball fully crossed the line for a corner kick before the midfielder could send the ball to Suarez.

The home manager was the first to look for reinforcements to his bench, bringing on Borja Valero for the uninspired Radja Nainggolan in the 62nd minute. With the Spaniard involved, Inter threatened for the first time in the second half in the 65th minute, but Matteo Politano’s header missed the far post. But Barcelona’s dominance on the pitch continued and Dembele would take Barcelona’s next shot two minutes later, only to be denied again by Handanović who was now up to seven saves.

Around the 70th minute Inter for the first time in the match created some sustained pressure inside Barcelona’s third, but the Catalan defense held its ground. In the 73rd minute, Valverde made his first substitution with Arthur coming off and Arturo Vidal coming on. Seven minutes later, Malcom made his Champions League debut in place of Dembele while Antonio Candreva replaced Politano for Inter.

And Valverde’s substitution paid immediate dividends as Malcom scored the opening goal after just two minutes on the pitch. Coutinho led Barcelona on the counter attack before finding Malcom on the right side who powered a shot on goal that went just under Handanović’s right hand to score his first Barcelona goal. Luciano Spalletti replied immediately, brining on Lautaro Martínez in place of Marcelo Brozović. Inter would quickly go on the attack and Icardi made Barcelona pay for a series of defensive mistakes – arguably their first real mistakes of the match – in the 87th minute.

Three minutes were added on, but Barcelona dominance of Inter would go unrewarded as not even eight shots on goal, and 26 overall, would be enough for the Catalans to secure a first place finish in Milan. It was a missed opportunity for Valverde’s men who had Inter on the ropes for the majority of the match. Still, a draw in Milan is a positive result and Barcelona are still in the driver’s seat in their group. La Liga action up next as an always difficult Real Betis make the trip to the Camp Nou.

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