BARCELONA - When it ends this way, it’s hard to stomach. Inter suffered a 2-1 defeat this evening away to Barcelona on matchday two in Group F of the UEFA Champions League. Despite this, there were plenty of positives: Antonio Conte’s side played with know-how and courage, showing tactical acumen and moments of real quality. The Nerazzurri went ahead immediately through Lautaro Martinez and were magnificent in the first half, creating numerous chances to extend their one-goal advantage. This was perhaps the real disappointment: failing to find that second goal. Because in the second half, the expected Barcelona reaction arrived. The Blaugrana never managed to overrun Inter, but two excellent goals from Luis Suarez were ultimately enough for the home side. Inter remain on one point in the group, while Barcelona now sit on four points alongside Borussia Dortmund.
Griezmann had the first shot of the match but failed to catch Handanovic off guard. And just seconds later, Inter struck: Lautaro Martinez raced through on goal after being played in by Sanchez, with the Argentine striker coolly slotting past Ter Stegen and giving the Nerazzurri the lead. It was a fantastic goal scored after just a minute and 59 seconds and one which ended Inter’s goal drought at Camp Nou: the last time the Nerazzurri had scored at Barcelona’s ground was in 1970.
The Blaugrana then looked to respond: with 15 minutes on the clock, Griezmann’s header dropped onto the roof of the net following Sergi Roberto’s cross. Just a minute later, Lautaro got in behind the Barcelona defence but took the ball too far having knocked it past Ter Stegen and the chance went begging. Inter were really getting at the home side, not afraid to push men forward and play it from the back. It might have been risky at times, but once the Nerazzurri eluded Barcelona’s pressure high up the pitch there was enormous space for Conte’s men to play in. On more than one occasion, Lenglet and Piqué were forced to make last-ditch interventions as Inter surged forward.
Messi turned it on in the 25th minute, taking a shot with his left from distance, but Handanovic did well to keep it out. Candreva then found Inter’s second, controlling with his right and striking with his left after a ball over the top, but the goal was correctly ruled out for offside. Another big chance for the Nerazzurri came in the 33rd minute: some super work from Lautaro down the left flank before he played it in to Sensi who set to Sanchez first time. The Chilean held it up brilliantly, flicking it on to Barella who met it with his right but was kept out by Semedo’s slide to save the day for Barcelona. Ter Stegen’s save in the 37th minute was just as spectacular: Lautaro headed the cross from Candreva perfectly and it looked certain to be a goal for Inter, but the German shotstopper kept it out somehow. The chances were flowing for Inter as the Nerazzurri played it all the way out from the back, the end result a Sensi shot which flew just over the crossbar. Conte’s team were finding space all over the pitch, and minutes later Sanchez just couldn’t quite direct his header goalwards. Then, right at the end of the first half, Barcelona had a chance of their own with Messi and Arthur linking up, but they couldn’t do enough to cause any real danger to Handanovic’s goal.
Spurred on by Vidal’s introduction to the game after half time, the beginning of Barcelona’s revival was a mixture of anger and competitiveness. Inter were alert and organised, but in the 58th minute they succumbed: a foray forward by Messi led to Vidal providing an assist to Suarez; and it was a moment of brilliance from the Uruguayan, twisting in the air to unleash a shot that was just of out of reach of Handanovic in goal. That goal to make it 1-1 was beautiful yet tough to take for the Nerazzuri, who up to that moment had merited their lead, and had probably deserved a second goal. The equalizer made Inter a little less secure, which made it harder to escape the Barcelona press. Gagliardini and Dembélé both came on, and it was the latter with almost an immediate impact, taking on a shot from far out and almost scoring. Inter didn’t leave themselves open, but faced up to Barcelona, and continued to look for a response which could interrupt the waves of Barcelona attacks.
In the 84th minute came the goal that decided the match. And once again it was Luis Suarez who beat Handanovic. A surging run from the right by Messi fed Suarez the ball, who beat Godin with his first touch and a few steps later he beat Handanovic as well. The goal weighed particularly heavily on Inter hearts, as they had had plenty of opportunities to double their lead in the first half.
We leave Camp Nou with a defeat but also with the knowledge that great character was shown and a great game played. Now there is no time for looking back, because on Sunday Juventus arrive at San Siro. We are ready to go again, together. As always, #ForzaInter!
BARCELONA 2-1 INTER
BARCELONA (4-3-3): 1 ter Stegen; 20 Sergi Roberto, 3 Piquè, 15 Lenglet, 2 Semedo; 21 De Jong, 5 Busquets (22 Vidal 53'), 8 Arthur; 10 Messi, 9 Suarez, 17 Griezmann (11 Dembélé 66').
Substitutes: 13 Neto, 4 Rakitic, 6 Todibo, 16 Wague, 27 Perez.
Coach: Ernesto Valverde.
INTER (3-5-2): 1 Handanovic; 2 Godin, 6 De Vrij, 37 Skriniar; 87 Candreva (33 D'Ambrosio 71'), 23 Barella, 77 Brozovic, 12 Sensi (16 Politano 79'), 18 Asamoah; 7 Sanchez (5 Gagliardini 66'), 10 Lautaro.
Substitutes: 27 Padelli, 34 Biraghi, 8 Vecino, 30 Esposito.
Coach: Antonio Conte.
Referee: Damir Skomina (SVN)
Assistants: Jure Praprotnik, Robert Vukan
Fourth Official: Rade Obrenovic
VAR and VAR Assistant: Danny Makkelie, Slavko Vinčić