Barcelona and Inter played out a chaotic Champions League clash on Wednesday, with the Nerazzurri nudging towards qualification with a draw.
After back-to-back European defeats, Xavi Hernandez called the competition a “final” for Barcelona. It is fitting that his team played the match with a feverish and frenzied fervor that continued from the first minute to the last.
Pressing high and hard, Barcelona launched wave after wave of attack and approached the first half as if they were losing at the break.
Inter quickly settled into a compact 5-3-2 off the ball but threatened when they sporadically came out of their shell.
Raphinha epitomized the club’s fervent pursuit as he ran after his own knockdown. The Brazilian collected the ball at the corner flag and coolly turned the pass along the touchline. Sergi Roberto assisted into the six-yard box for Ousmane Dembele to blast over the line to ignite a sold-out Camp Nou.
The 91,000 in attendance fell silent when Nicolo Barella drove off within five minutes of the restart. Gerard Pique waved both arms to signal there was no danger as he laid Alessandro Bastoni’s pass to his goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen. However, the veteran did not notice Barella – in which Pique played. The 25-year-old knocked the ball onto his thigh and swung it on a swivel to level Inter.
Another experienced head in the Barcelona side undermined the fervor of their colleagues. Sergio Busquets hardly gave the ball away alongside Xavi but had a simple pass cut out as his former team-mate looked on in horror. With Barcelona’s backline out of form, Lautaro Martinez was quick to find the ball at his boots and in the 64th minute he headed home from Eric Garcia to fire Inter ahead – over both posts.
Lewandowski was well lined up for most of the game but came alive in the final ten minutes. Lewandowski broke free at the second stage corner and unleashed a shot that was heavily parried by Andre Onana to make it 2-2.
However, Inter quickly extinguished the hope that was returning to the Catalan audience. Martinez broke up Onan’s long strike up the pitch and saw Robin Gosens break his neck to reach the empty penalty box with Barcelona bodies strewn across the pitch to fire Inter back in front.
Lewandowski provided the final loop in this roller-coaster encounter when he headed home behind Onana’s dive in the third minute of stoppage time to set up a grandstand finish to a match that was played at a similar pace from the first whistle.
Barcelona vs Inter player ratings – Champions League
1. Barcelona (4-3-3)
GK: Marc-Andre ter Stegen – 8/10 – Seemed to fill so much of the goal as he continued his excellent form.
RB: Sergi Roberto – 7/10 – Wandered between Inter’s lines, overloading central areas as he left the entire right flank for Raphinha.
CB: Eric Garcia – 6/10 – Keen to feed the ball between the visiting white shirts.
CB: Gerard Pique – 2/10 – The veteran was guilty of a schoolboy error.
LB: Marcos Alonso – 6/10 – Deployed in an uncharacteristically reserved role, tucking infield to make a back-three when Barcelona built up from the back.
CM: Pedri – 6/10 – Constantly drifting off the back of his opponent’s shoulders, sneaking around the final third.
CM: Sergio Busquets – 4/10 – Even the ice-cool pivot got swept along in the frenzy, rushing his one-touch passes.
CM: Gavi – 6/10 – Hustled and bustled around in midfield with familiar energy which was replicated by most of his teammates for once.
RW: Raphinha – 8/10 – A star in Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds United, Raphinha is used to thriving in chaos, flourishing amid the fury on Wednesday night. Bizarrely subbed off after an hour.
ST: Robert Lewandowski – 7/10 – Spent much of the game furiously battling at least two of Inter’s three centre-backs before scrawling his name all over the script at the death.
LW: Ousmane Dembele – 6/10 – Like his opposite winger, Dembele held a very wide starting position – trying to stretch Inter’s compact back-five – but timed his dart off the flank to perfection.
SUB: Frenkie de Jong (64′ for Busquets) – 5/10
SUB: Ansu Fati (64′ for Raphinha) – 5/10
SUB: Alejandro Balde (72′ for Alonso) – N/A
SUB: Franck Kessie (72′ for Roberto) – N/A
SUB: Ferran Torres (82′ for Gavi) – N/A
Manager: Xavi Hernandez – 5/10 – Inspired his team to play with an almost demented desire but couldn’t legislate for a couple of errors from his former teammates.
2. Inter (3-5-2)
GK: Andre Onana – 4/10 – The former Barcelona academy player treated the ball like a hot potato, spilling numerous efforts from range.
CB: Milan Skriniar – 7/10 – Took a thoroughly physical approach to the challenge of shackling Lewandowski.
CB: Stefan de Vrij – 6/10 – Shadowed almost every step Lewandowski took.
CB: Alessandro Bastoni – 6/10 – Very pleased to see Raphinha trudge off the pitch, Bastoni floated the ball forward which led to Barella’s equaliser.
RWB: Denzel Dumfries – 7/10 – A dynamic outlet that drove Inter up the pitch when the Nerazzurri broke forward.
CM: Nicolo Barella – 8/10 – Engaged in a fascinating battle of scrap and sinew with Barcelona’s Gavi. Took his goal superbly with his weaker left foot.
CM: Hakan Calhanoglu – 7/10 – The springboard for Inter’s attacking transitions while bolstering his reputation as a potent set-piece architect.
CM: Henrikh Mkhitaryan – 5/10 – Kept the score level with his goal-line clearance but struggled to keep track of Roberto all night and notably for Dembele’s opener.
LWB: Federico Dimarco – 4/10 – Pinned back for large swathes of the match with Raphinha to deal with.
ST: Edin Dzeko – 6/10 – A perennial option for a pass forward from the visitors but he was unfortunate to see his first-half effort bounce off the woodwork and onto – rather than over – the goal line.
ST: Lautaro Martinez – 7/10 – Buzzed around the fringes of the contest before sparking into life when the ball fell his way in the box.
SUB: Matteo Darmian (66′ for Dimarco) – 5/10
SUB: Robin Gosens (76′ for Calhanoglu) – N/A
SUB: Raoul Bellanova (76′ for Dzeko) – N/A
SUB: Kristjan Asllani (85′ for Barella) – N/A
SUB: Francesco Acerbi (85′ for Bastoni) – N/A
Manager: Simone Inzaghi – 7/10 – Just as Xavi had predicted, Inzaghi set his side up to sit back and strike on the counter but went for the throat when they sensed Barcelona wobble.