Barcelona snapped an eight-match winless run away against Italian sides, as goals from Carles Perez and substitute Ansu Fati helped Ernesto Valverde’s men to an impressive victory – while confining Inter Milan to the Europa League knockout stages in 2020.
Inter needed to match or better Borussia Dortmund’s result against Slavia Prague to qualify for the last-16, but as BVB were 2-1 winners in Germany, their last-gasp defeat means they’ll have to settle for the Champions League’s sister competition next February.
Having made seven changes to their side from matchday five, Valverde rested key players including Marc-Andre ter Stegen and talisman Lionel Messi: the first time he’s been completely rested when available in the UCL since 2011.
Inter started brightly but found themselves a goal behind midway through the first-half, courtesy of Perez’s razor-sharp finish from close-range. Strike partners Lautaro Martinez and Romelu Lukaku combined to devastating effect, with the latter equalising just before half-time.
However, the Nerazzuri had a whopping three goals correctly ruled out for offside and were left frustrated – both by Neto’s reliable goalkeeping presence and their wasteful finishing.
Their lack of profilgacy infront of goal was further emphasised late on, as Fati came off the substitutes’ bench to break a Champions League record: becoming the competition’s youngest ever goalscorer (17 years, 40 days old) with an effort on the edge of the box which cannoned in off the post.
The Guiseppe Meazza was hushed into silence. Despite their spirited efforts, Inter had nothing to show for their chance creation and crash out of the group stages for the second successive campaign. Here’s a look at individual player ratings from a memorable encounter in Milan:
Samir Handanovic (Goalkeeper): 6/10
Made a few smart stops, especially to deny Perez’s snapshot from an awkward angle in the first-half – which seemed to be creeping in at his far post. Did well to smother Griezmann’s powerful effort after the break, but was left helpless to deny Perez from such close-range and Fati’s strike cannoned in off the far post.
Diego Godin: 6.5/10
Ultimately the experienced centre-back should have done better to stop Vidal latching onto Griezmann’s pass in the build-up to the visitors’ opener. Despite a few shaky moments where the Uruguayan was targeted in one-on-one battles, he did okay and kept busy as expected. Completed six interceptions, three tackles, two blocks and one key pass over the 90 minutes.
Stefan de Vrij: 7/10
Solid in the tackle and unafraid to get involved in Inter attacks, he was unafraid to display his passing range – delivering some great long passes to stretch Barca’s backline.
His first-half marauding run forward rather emphasised the Dutchman’s desire to avoid defeat on this occasion, undoubtedly aware of their group situation. He did his reputation no harm with a steady display, making crucial clearances (5) and interceptions (4) when called upon.
Milan Skriniar: 7/10
Showing great composure under pressure to deal with Griezmann as and when he pressed from the front, his levels didn’t drop when Barca themselves had sustained waves of creative pressure.
He gave away a dangerous free-kick for cynically hauling Perez down, who had bested him down the flank. However, the Slovakian international was Inter’s only defender not to be carded and bravely stepped into a higher starting position as time wore on with a result to chase. Five interceptions, two blocks, 6/8 duels won.
Danilo D’Ambrosio: 5.5/10
Should have done better after an overlapping run saw him flash a header narrowly wide from close-range before half-time, but was otherwise unspectacular. Won eight of 12 duels contested, completing four tackles and two successful dribbles – but committed three fouls and had a poor 69.6% pass accuracy too.
Matias Vecino: 7/10
Certainly a busy game for the experienced Uruguayan, who frustrated in a creative sense but was impressive defensively. Had an early speculative effort from seemingly nothing narrowly miss Lukaku – a little less power and the Belgian probably would’ve broken the deadlock.
His decision-making in possession (51.6% pass success) was poor though, especially when opting to shoot from distance with teammates in support either side of him. Fortunately though, he excelled in the other facets of the game: 10 of 14 duels won, six tackles, one clearance and interception.
Marcelo Brozovic: 6.5/10
In the first-half, his poor free-kick deliveries ruined promising goalscoring chances and despite making important defensive contributions (4 interceptions), just wasn’t involved enough in the final third as we know he’s capable of.
As the hosts cranked up their pressure, he began to settle but unfortunately for Inter, this only happened once it was too late and Barca themselves had a result (1-1, then 2-1) to protect.
Borja Valero: 6/10
Near the half-hour mark, there was a forgettable few minutes for the Spaniard which rather typified his evening. His poor choice of pass saw a possible counter-attacking move break down, before he almost teed up Rakitic with another slack attempt – this time clearing danger on the edge of his box.
Rightly booked for a needless sliding foul on Firpo just before half-time, he had his moments but it wasn’t surprising to see him hooked as Conte added fresh legs in search of the winner.
Cristiano Biraghi: 5/10
He forced a fine save from Neto before the break, having overlapped well and firing goalwards with power after Umtiti was effortlessly dispossessed in the Barca half. However, his crossing was awful (1 of 11 completed) and failed to provide reliable width down Inter’s right-hand side – no wonder Lazaro was Conte’s first alteration – on in his place.
Romelu Lukaku: 7/10
Romelu started quickly and might’ve had a goal and assist after six minutes. Instead, he watched on with frustration as D’Ambrosio fired wide and his thunderous effort was correctly ruled offside. After showing great footwork and composure to leave Umtiti sliding, he shaped to shoot but was denied a goalbound effort courtesy of Lenglet’s perfectly-timed block.
He teed up D’Ambrosio again with a better opportunity, to no avail – before earning his reward just before the break. Combining alongside Martinez to good effect, his deflected strike left Neto helpless and brought the game back to life. However, he crucially squandered big opportunities after half-time and was left frustrated by Barca’s conscious effort to shift him into non-threatening areas, out wide. Ultimately an annoying night, having started so well.
Lautaro Martinez: 7/10
The talented Argentine looked threatening and was understandably relishing the battle with Todibo in-and-around the final third, particularly after the early exchanges – where he seemed stronger and was eager to make a memorable impact here.
He had the beating of Umtiti and Lenglet on a number of occasions, creating chances for Biraghi and more besides. However, it was the aforementioned battle between himself and Todibo which proved pivotal in the build-up to Lukaku’s equaliser, holding him off and earning an assist for his troubles. A persistent nuisance for Barca’s backline to contend with, he was unlucky to have both goals chalked off, but those fine margins proved decisive.
Valentino Lazaro: 6.5/10
His introduction was clearly beneficial and Conte should have started him – offering more width and a genuine attacing outlet – but this substitution felt like it arrived too late.
He won two of three duels, completed a dribble and clearance alongside 91.7% pass accuracy (11 completed) but the Austrian’s touch wasn’t immaculate and service into his path didn’t help either. It meant promising chances down his side often finished with groans from the home supporters and apologetic looks from teammates. Frustrating indeed.
Sebastiano Esposito: 6/10
The highly-rated teenager, still only 17, did his blossoming reputation no harm with another encouraging cameo on this occasion.
Pressed from the front whenever Barca had possession, was unafraid to tussle with Valverde’s defensive mixture of experience and youthful exuberance – while creating a key pass and clearance too. Will yearn for more minutes in the Europa League nxt year.
Matteo Politano: 5.5/10
Replaced D’Ambrosio with 15 minutes left and his most promising moment was deleted by a last-ditch block courtesy of Lenglet, yet again. Not enough time to do much else of note.
Neto (Goalkeeper): 7.5/10
Making his first Champions League appearance of the campaign, he made a string of good saves to keep Inter at bay – particularly from D’Ambrosio and Martinez – the latter only needed a yard of space to threaten, but the Brazil goalkeeper held firm nonetheless.
Not much he could do to stop Lukaku’s goal, especially as it took a deflection off Umtiti on the way through towards his bottom corner.
Junior Firpo: 6.5/10
Like many others, he grew into the game and importantly displayed some good defensive contributions when called upon as Inter probed in search of a second-half winner. Only won five of 12 duels and was unconvincing in the tackle at times. Crucially, he managed to maintain composure and survive the storm, having been booked minutes following the restart for a needless tackle in a dangerous area – unlike against Granada in September.
Samuel Umtiti: 6.5/10
Umtiti started sluggishly and was fortunate not to have gifted Inter a goal or two, as a result of shaky distribution from the back. Given Inter’s energetic pressing tactics under Conte, it seemed like the Frenchman was playing right into the hosts’ gameplan.
Despite that tough period, he began to settle and physically impose himself on Lukaku and Martinez – but not before both attackers had the beating of him in promising attacks. However, his head didn’t drop and instead Umtiti’s presence proved a necessary one to help Barca survive Inter’s continued pressure – making important headed clearances (4).
Match stats? Three interceptions, two blocks, one tackle and key pass to accompany his 87.5% pass success (49 completed), which speaks volumes for a World Cup winner who still isn’t back to his best after persistent injury woes in recent seasons.
Clement Lenglet: 7/10
Lenglet was far from perfect on this occasion, exposed just as Umtiti was, but recovered with two brilliant blocks to deny Lukaku and substitute Politano at times where Inter continued to threaten and looked certain to score.
He beat the turf in frustration after squandering a close-range effort wide from Alena’s corner midway through the first-half, before being harshly booked for an aerial collision with D’Ambrosio. Played with a booking hanging over him for an hour but ultimately that didn’t faze him, when it really should have.
Jean-Clair Todibo: 9/10 – Man of the Match
This match was a real baptism of fire for the 19-year-old defender, forced into ongoing battles with both Martinez and Lukaku over the 90 minutes. Under seemingly constant pressure, he relished the challenge and completed a number of important tackles to dispossess the pair of them – while growing in confidence as the match wore on, winning duels left, right and centre.
Martinez’s excellent hold-up play was on show in the build-up to Lukaku’s equaliser as he shrugged off the Frenchman’s advances. That was the only real blemish on his all-round display here, as he shone in a match Barca had no right winning.
He made a fantastic defensive recovery to thwart Martinez moments after Romelu’s goal, while timing challenges to perfection and unfazed by Inter in transition – whether they had the ball out wide or in the centre, he was prepared to put his body on the line. A game-high eight tackles, four clearances, three successful dribbles, one interception and block to accompany his 82.1% pass accuracy (46 passes), this was a night to remember.
Moussa Wague: 7/10
Down the right-hand side, Wague combined well with Griezmann in the first-half – but his eventual effort left a lot to be desired after a slaloming run forward. It was a promising start by the fearless Senegal international, who only grew in confidence as the match wore on.
He made four tackles, including an excellent challenge to dispossess Lukaku as he advanced on a promising attack, while putting his body on the line with a firm but painful block to thwart Biraghi’s cross too. 2020 could prove a breakthrough year for the 21-year-old.
Carles Alena: 7/10
Alena displayed an eagerness to pass forwards and create chances, even with limited supporting runners against Inter. This was precisely the type of game where his ability to unlock defences was tested and in truth, he didn’t buckle under pressure – making a first start since mid-August.
Constantly looking to receive possession, he had 110 touches (84.9% pass accuracy, 79 passes completed) over the 90 minutes and created a game-high four key passes. With seven of 13 duels won and three successful dribbles, this was an encouraging display. The only real criticism is how easily he was being beaten by Inter midfielders in transition, as he should have done more to stop them overloading down the left-hand side.
Ivan Rakitic: 7/10
Sitting deeper with a more conservative holding midfield role, the Croatian’s position allowed creative freedom for both Vidal and Alena – who are used to interchanging responsibilities.
Despite possessing a defensive presence, he occasionally seemed a little restricted and it wasn’t surprising to see him marauding through midfield in the second-half, earning a corner for his troubles. Nothing came of it, but this was another solid display by the 31-year-old. He won four of five duels contested, with two successful dribbles and 89% pass accuracy too.
Arturo Vidal: 6.5/10
Vidal showed great off-the-ball movement and composure under pressure in the box to ignore Godin’s advances, with a cushioned pass into Perez a ruthless way to break the deadlock.
Rakitic’s deeper holding role gave him more creative freedom alongside Alena, where he created two key passes and had 92% accuracy over the 90 minutes. However, he flickered in-and-out of the game at times – which would have proved costly against more ruthless opposition.
Carles Perez: 7/10
It was a brilliant finish from the Spaniard to break the deadlock midway through the first-half, marking his Champions League debut with aplomb after Vidal’s pass. He waltzed past two players to create a promising opening for Griezmann, but Antoine was ultimately thwarted by Handanovic.
He worked well, passing was tidy (92% accuracy) and naturally he’ll hope for more goals too – he’s now got two this term, having been promoted from their B team over the summer.
Antoine Griezmann: 6.5/10
Plaudits will rightly go to Perez for breaking the deadlock with aplomb, but the Frenchman’s contribution just before the goal cannot go unnoticed – fizzing a laser 20-yard pass into Vidal’s path to cause Inter’s backline all sorts of problems. They were duly punished.
It’s these types of individual moments from the World Cup winner that we expect on a more regular basis and is why, on evenings like these, it’s frustrating to see he was shackled with minimal fuss before being replaced. Had a shot parried by Handanovic but other than that, not much to write home about.
Luis Suarez: 7/10
Say what you want about his gradual decline, Suarez continues to prove a nuisance for opposition defences and proved precisely that again, off the bench on this occasion. With an hour’s rest here, he replaced Griezmann and assisted fellow sub Fati to break Inter hearts.
He won a dangerous free-kick after advancing in transition and being caught by de Vrij, who was booked for his troubles – while he also displayed his game-management expertise in different situations under pressure in a match that could have gone either way.
Frenkie de Jong: 6.5/10
Didn’t really put a foot wrong upon his introduction, Frenkie completed two tackles, one interception, key pass and successful dribble to boot. Kept his passing tidy (91.2% success, 31 accurate passes) while proving a more reliable option than Vidal.
Ansu Fati: 8/10
What more is there to say? Broke a 22-year competition record and is now the youngest Champions League goalscorer of all-time, barely 60 seconds after coming on – at a time where Inter were in the ascendancy and looked most likely to snatch all three points.
His finish was well-taken too, ignoring the advances of three players on the edge of their area before a one-two with Suarez gifted him enough space to drill a low effort in off the far post.