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A game where anything other than a victory would leave FC Barcelona in a very, very delicate situation produced six goals, and plenty of drama, but not the result that the Catalans needed.
Barça led 1-0 at half-time through Ousmane Dembélé, but Inter scored twice to turn the game around. At that stage, the Catalans were mathematically eliminated.
Although Robert Lewandowski restored hope with a headed equaliser, in a frenetic finale, the Italians again took the lead before Lewandowski scored a second to at least give Barça some kind of hope of making it into the last sixteen.
But it's an agonisingly thin hope. For regardless of what Barça do against Bayern in the penultimate match day, if Inter have beaten Viktoria in the game being played earlier that day, then the blaugrana will already be out of the competition.
It came as a huge relief when Barça took the lead after 40 minutes. Until then, and in front of a massive 92,000+ crowd, they generally looked on top, and had particularly fine chances to score when Lewandowski had a header cleared off the line and when Raphina fired one wide, but Inter’s well-organised defence was generally keeping the Catalans in check.
And although they were going forward less, the Italians were generally doing a better job of creating clear-cut chances. Edin Dzeko hit the bar from alarmingly close range and both Mkhitaryan and Dumfries brought out fantastic saves from Ter Stegen.
But just before half-time Barça finally had the edge after some fine work from Raphinha down the right, and then Sergi Roberto was the middleman in getting the ball right into the killer zone for Dembélé to bang home.
Inter turn it around
So far so good. After scoring, Barça suddenly looked a lot more comfortable and Inter anything but.
But a momentary lapse in concentration gave the visitors a breakthrough. Nicolò Barella really shouldn’t have been allowed to be where he was, but there he was and Barça were back to square one.
What followed was a frenetic period of end-to-end football in which either side could score. And it was Inter that did.
Lautaro Martínez’s shot hit both posts on the way in. But it went in. With Bayern Munich running away with their own fixture against Viktoria Plzen (it would eventually end 4-2), unless Barça could do something, they were heading for the Europa League again.
Hope and despair
Barça still had 20 minutes to set things straight. But it just didn’t seem to be happening. Not even for Lewandowski, who headed over twice. But then a fluffed clearance landed straight at Pole’s feet and Inter keeper Onana could only stand and watch as Barça were finally back level...
Barça were no longer out but they still needed another goal to avoid depending on other results going their way. Spotify Camp Nou exploded to life. There was a real belief that they were about to witness yet another famous European comeback. More importantly, the players seemed to believe it too.
Barça threw everything they had forward. They had to. But it was too much. Caught on the break, Martinez found himself alone down the right, and Robin Gosens was on the end of his pass to restore Inter’s lead.
Yet even then Barça refused to lie down. As Barça again piled forward, Eric Garcia’s assist was met by Lewandowski’s head and an extraordinary game was now 3-3.
There was time for more drama. Bellanova was through on goal. A fourth Inter goal seemed inevitable. TER STEGEN!!!!
If he hadn’t made that save, Barça would now be mathematically out of the Champions League. Things are still hanging on a thread. Barça’s fate is no longer in their own hands. But at least there is still some kind of hope. Stranger things have happened in football. Força Viktoria!
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