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Who needs Messi? Inter Milan fall to Lionel-less Barcelona

Rafinha scores winner in Champions League clash

FC Barcelona v FC Internazionale - UEFA Champions League Group B
Danilo D’Ambrosio of Inter Milan and Philippe Coutinho of Barcelona battles for possession during the Group B match of the UEFA Champions League between FC Barcelona and FC Internazionale at Camp Nou on October 24, 2018 in Barcelona, Spain.
Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

Going into Wednesday’s matchup at Camp Nou, Interisti may have thought getting three points in the Champions League at Barcelona was a strong possibility.

But, a familiar face ruined those chances.

Rafinha — who spent the last half of last season on loan at Inter Milan — scored the game winner in the first half and Jordi Alba put the game out of reach in the second half as Barcelona knocked off the Nerazzurri, 2-0 in their Group B clash.

The win puts the Blaugrana top of the group on nine points with Inter second on six. PSV Eindhoven and Tottenham Hotspur drew 2-2 in Belgium to bring both teams to just a point each.

Despite the fact that Lionel Messi being ruled out due to a broken arm, the main storyline was Rafinha.

It was a rare start for the midfielder, who got the start in place of Messi by Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde.

In the 32rd minute, Rafinha found Luis Suarez on a drive, then Suarez crossed in volley into the area that Rafinha put home, giving Barcelona the 1-0 lead.

“It was a pleasure for me to see him again on the pitch,” said Inter coach Luciano Spalletti, according to the team’s website. “Technically, he’s very good and he certainly made an important contribution in keeping possession of the ball for the Blaugrana.”

Alba put the match away in the 83rd minute despite a late charge by Inter.

However, Barcelona was able to control possession and held much of the momentum throughout the match, despite a delivery by Mauro Icardi that curled over the bar early in the first half.

“We didn’t show as much character compared to our first two Champions League games. We weren’t courageous enough and the opposition made the most of our attitude,” Spalletti said. “We didn’t do as much as we can. We also could’ve scored over the course of the game but they were stronger than us and deserved to win. They play well, passing the ball quickly and thinking fast.”

Icardi and Ivan Perisic each had opportunities to get one past Marc Ter Stegen, but neither were able to seriously threaten.

Inter’s first half chances proved few and far between as Barcelona controlled 75 percent of the possession during the frame.

“The difference today was in the first half,” Icardi told Sky Sport following the match, as quoted by Inter’s team website. “We didn’t play in a way that was worthy of Inter in the first half, we left too much space open, we gave the ball away which meant the game was in their hands and they’re good at making the most of this.”

Despite bringing in Mateo Politano for Antonio Candreva in to start the second half, Inter failed to capitalize on what little momentum they gained after Politano nearly curled in an equalizer in the 50th minute that Ter Stegen pushed away. Politano nearly found Icardi in the 52nd minute, but his cross was over Icardi’s head.

Inter remain on solid ground to advance to the knockout stage, despite losing Wednesday. The Nerazzurri will have another shot at Barcelona when the Blaugrana come to the Meazza on Nov. 6.

“In truth, I’m not very happy with the match that we played because we could have done better, we could have played our game from the start,” Icardi said. “However, we know that we still need to play a great game in the reverse fixture while looking to get points which are what count in the end in order to get through the group.”

Inter will get back to Serie A action Monday, Oct. 29 when they travel to face Lazio.

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