Inter walked into the lion’s den and came out with everything it dreamed of. Well, just about. The Nerazzurri and Barca threw blow after blow in one of the wildest Champions League group stage fixtures in recent memory, with the final score ending 3-3 all. It wouldn’t be Inter without some sort of blunder - in this case, Kristjan Asllani’s decision to shoot instead of a pass to a wide-open Henrikh Mkhitaryan in stoppage time - but a draw is a superb result for Simone Inzaghi’s men who showed everything you’d want from Inter in a big moment and then some.
Each manager made just three changes from last week, with Gerard Pique replacing Andreas Christensen for the hosts while Denzel Dumfries and Edin Dzeko slotted in for Matteo Darmian and Joaquin Correa respectively. Andre Onana was given a third straight start in goal, further signaling the end of Samir Handanovic’s reign.
Barca started on the front foot out of the gates and racked up possession through the opening stages, but its best chance came from a corner when Mkhitaryan cleared a header off the line. It was Inter that came closest to the opener, however. A sliding Edin Dzeko blasted a Calhanoglu freekick off the crossbar and down onto, but not past, the goalline in the 16th minute. Lautaro and Skriniar couldn’t put the rebound on frame either. Denzel Dumfries was the next one to cause Ter Stegen problems, but despite having a clear look at goal he sent his effort right at the German keeper on a counterattack in the 29th minute. Inter was almost made to rue its missed chances soon after when Onana fumbled a long-range Dembele effort into the center of the box, but luckily he recovered just in time to prevent Lewandowski from having a tap in. After a few more half-chances, Barca would get its opener on 40 minutes, and once again Dembele was the man of the hour, burying a Sergi Roberto cross from point-blank range.
BARCELONA BREAKTHROUGH.— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) October 12, 2022
A great team move finished by Dembele. pic.twitter.com/xbBmmTPTIM
That brought a conclusion to what had become a very one-sided first half, with Barca holding 62% possession and outshooting Inter 15 (3 on target) to 3 (2 on target). In terms of quality chances, however, the game was far more level, but Inter lacked the mix of luck and clinicalness it needed.
The second half promised to be another story. Inter pulled level out of nowhere just five minutes after the break via a slick Alessandro Bastoni cross and an even slicker Nicolo Barella finish.
The game opened up after the equalizer and neither side could get a firm grasp on proceedings - which made for a great spectacle. Lautaro almost gave Inter the go-ahead goal on the hour mark but Ter Stegen reacted quickly to the Argentine’s low header and pawed the ball off the line. El Toro wasn’t to be denied for long, however, and broke his goal drought in the 63rd minute.
Xavi went straight to his bench after falling behind, bringing on the likes of Ansu Fati, Frenkie De Jong, and Franck Kessie. Inzaghi responded by introducing three wingbacks (!) into action in some sort of 5-4-1 formation. But ultimately it wouldn’t be enough to keep Barca out forever, with Lewandowski appearing out of the blue to equalize in the 82nd minute.
ROBERT LEWANDOWSKI— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) October 12, 2022
A LIFELINE FOR BARCELONA. pic.twitter.com/PVVHpWJmH7
The drama was far from done, however, and Inter somehow managed to regain the lead in the 89th minute.
WHAT AN ASSIST LAUTARO— All About Argentina (@AlbicelesteTalk) October 12, 2022
And yet, the Nerazzurri couldn’t hold on to a victory that would have booked its spot in the Round of 16, with Lewandowski popping up once again in the 92nd minute.
ROBERT LEWANDOWSKI AGAIN. BARCELONA ARE STILL IN THIS pic.twitter.com/e3lSiIiUFC— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) October 12, 2022
The final four minutes of stoppage time saw even more chaos, headlined by a solid Ter Stegen stop on Asllani in a one-v-one, albeit with Mkhiatrayan waiting wide open for a tap in had the Albanian passed.
By the time the dust settled at the Camp Nou, the scoreline read Barca 3, Inter 3, ultimately a fair result that makes Barca’s road to the round of 16 that much harder. Despite holding 62% possession and outshooting Inter 25 (11 on target) to 11 (8 on target), the hosts lost the expected goals battle ever so slightly (2.4 xg to 2.5 xg) and with a little more luck Inter could have ended Barca’s hopes then and there.
Onana - 7.5: A stellar showing despite conceding three goals. Made 7 saves - more than a few that left Barca exasperated, helped set up Gosens' goal and led Inter in touches (62) and accurate long balls (15). The deserved starter.
Bastoni - 7.5: Got a great assist on Barella’s goal and put in quite the defensive shift with 6 clearances, 2 blocked shots, 2 interceptions, and 3 duels won.
de Vrij - 7: Really has come back to his best in these two games against Barca. Kept Lewandowski quiet for almost all ninety minutes, made 7 clearances, and won 4 duels.
Skriniar - 7: Rock-solid from the captain. Won 6 duels, made 6 clearances and blocked one shot in a superb showing at the back.
Dimarco - 6: Dimarco was a non-factor before his early exit for Darmian, failing to do much outside of ping a few crosses in with mixed results.
Mkhitaryan - 5.5: A bit sloppy in possession - 17 giveaways are far too much for a midfielder - but his best moments came off the ball, where he registered 2 clearances, 2 interceptions, and 3 blocked shots.
Calhanoglu - 7: Another great showing filling in for Brozovic. Made 2 key passes, went 5 for 5 on long balls, won 4 duels, and made 2 clearances.
Barella - 7.5: A constant force of energy in the center of the park and capped it off with a quality goal. Great to see him at his best.
Dumfries - 6: His end product let him down far too often but he did manage to win 11 duels and made 3 clearances, so it wasn’t a total wash from the Dutchman.
Lautaro - 8 (Man of the Match): Barella got the official Man of the Match honors but I have to go with El Toro instead. Couldn’t have picked a better time to break his goal drought and was Inter’s biggest creator as well, with an assist and two big chances created to his name as well.
Dzeko - 6: Didn’t make much of an impact outside of that chance in the first half, but that was more due to Inter’s more defensive shape than Dzeko himself.
Inzaghi - 7.5: Really showing his mettle on the European stage and is one win away from leading Inter out of the Group of Death. His subs might have been a little questionable - mainly taking off Bastoni and Barella - but sticking with largely the same starting XI as the first leg proved to be a great call.
Inter has two weeks until game 5 of the group stage, at home against Viktoria Plzen. A win will book the Nerazzurri a spot in the next round, and it currently sits second on 7 points, 5 short of Bayern but three ahead of Barca with the head-to-head advantage. Next up is Salernitana at the San Siro in the early kickoff Sunday.