Barcelona 2-0 Inter Milan
Barcelona 2-0 Inter Milan: Rafinha and Jordi Alba fire Ernesto Valverde’s side clear at the top of Group B as Lionel Messi watches on from the stands with his son
- In the early kick-off Tottenham were pegged back to 2-2 in a draw against PSV Eindhoven and are up against it
- Rafinha broke the deadlock and put Barcelona in front who neatly finished off a Luis Suarez through ball
- Ernesto Valverde’s side were without talisman Lionel Messi and the injured striker watched on in the stands
- Jordi Alba then killed the game eight minutes from time after placing Ivan Rakitic’s ball into the corner
Lionel Messi was an animated Nou Camp spectator as Barcelona beat Inter 2-0 to all but qualify for the Champions League knockout stage.
Watching with his son Thiago, right arm in a sling and left raised to celebrate goals from Rafinha and Jordi Alba, he saw a Barcelona side, ordinary at times without him, but still too much for their opponents.
The morning papers in Barcelona had demanded that there be ’11 Messi’. That was asking a lot but they never looked like losing and have maximum points at the halfway point of the group stage.
MATCH FACTS, TABLE AND MATCHZONE ANALYSIS
Ter Stegen, Roberto, Piqué, Lenglet, Alba, Rakitic, Busquets, Arthur (Vidal),Rafinha (Semedo), Suárez, Coutinho
Dembélé, Cillessen, Silva de Oliveira, El Haddadi, Brandáriz
Goals: Rafinha (32), Alba (82)
Handanovic, D’Ambrosio, Skriniar, Miranda, Asamoah, Vecino, Brozovic, Candreva (Politano), Valero (Martinez), Perisic (Keita), Icardi
Vrsaljko, de Vrij, Ranocchia, Padelli
Bookings: Skriniar, Brozovic, Martinez
Referee: Ovidiu Hategan
Barcelona responded immediately with Clement Lenglet heading Philippe Coutinho’s corner straight at Samir Handanovic.
Barcelona were missing Messi and the decision to replace him in the starting XI with Rafinha instead of the less predictable Ousmane Dembele at first looked like the wrong one.
Dembele’s anarchy has him in Ernesto Valverde’s bad books but safe choice Rafinha was not troubling Inter despite seeing plenty of the ball. One weak shot easily dealt with by Handanovic and then another replica after he had been teed-up by Luis Suarez summed up his first 20 minutes.
But he kept going and when the reward came it was sweet against a team that didn’t want to sign him in the summer after he spent six months there on loan last season. They did not want to pay in August, they were paying now.
Suarez, the architect of so many of Messi’s goals put the ball invitingly into the space just in front of Rafinha and he attacked it with a left foot volley past Handanovic for 1-0. He had started the move spraying the ball wide to Suarez, and he had finished it in style.
It was his first goal in 18 Champions League appearances. Messi was out of his seat in the stands raising his left arm, his right in a sling, to salute the goal. The replacement had done his job and found the net.
Inter started the second half well with Luciano Spalletti bringing on Matteo Politano. The substitute went close as Barcelona’s defence started the second period sloppily.
Suarez woke them up with his contagious energy. He was booked for a foul on Miranda and when he was brought down on the edge of the area with the next attack he won a free-kick which he tried to convert ‘a la Messi’ under the wall. It didn’t quite come off but he won a corner. He then led a thundering counter attack which ended with Coutinho thumping the bar.
Valverde changed his Arthurs with 10 minutes left. Arthur Melo was applauded off and Arturo Vidal was whistled on. The disapproval was not universal but loud enough for the Chilean international to be aware that his recent social media activity had upset some supporters.
He applied himself immediately and he was involved in the second goal as a slick passing move ended with Ivan Rakitic playing through Jordi Alba who went beyond everyone and fired past Hananovic.
Alba dedicated the goal to Messi and the home supporters sang his name once more. When he comes back they will still be very much in control of their Champions League fate.