Messi-less Barcelona draws 1-1 at In­ter a er late goals

The Myanmar Times - - Sport -

Lionel Messi once again watched from the side­lines and Barcelona’s at­tack strug­gled with­out him as the Span­ish side drew 1-1 at In­ter Mi­lan in the Cham­pi­ons League on Tues­day de­spite dom­i­nat­ing for large pe­ri­ods of the match.

The re­sult nev­er­the­less meant Barcelona be­came the first side to se­cure qual­i­fi­ca­tion for the knock­out.

Messi had trav­eled with the team to Mi­lan but Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde opted not to risk the star for­ward, who hasn’t played since frac­tur­ing his arm last month. The vis­i­tors still nearly man­aged to win the match when sub­sti­tute Mal­com net­ted with seven min­utes re­main­ing, mo­ments af­ter com­ing off the bench.

But In­ter has made a habit of scor­ing late goals and did so again as Mauro Icardi lev­eled in the 87th.

Barcelona could have won Group B with a vic­tory at San Siro but a com­bi­na­tion of way­ward fin­ish­ing and fine saves by In­ter goal­keeper Samir Han­danovic means it will have to wait un­til the fi­nal two group matches.

“We had a great game,” Valverde said. “We played very well. We didn’t win but we qual­i­fied. So I leave Mi­lan happy.”

Barcelona re­mained top of the group, three points ahead of In­ter and six ahead of Tot­ten­ham which beat PSV Eind­hoven 2-1.

“It’s a good point,” Icardi said. “The mes­sage from this match is that we want to qual­ify from the group, we wanted to take points from this match know­ing that now we have two dif­fi­cult matches.”

In­ter plays Tot­ten­ham next. It man­aged a late come-from-be­hind vic­tory at home in its Cham­pi­ons League opener, with Icardi lev­el­ing five min­utes from time and Ma­tias Ve­cino net­ting a stop­page­time win­ner.

“Let’s hope the same thing hap­pens that hap­pened at San Siro,” Icardi added with a laugh.

Messi in­jured his arm in a Span­ish league match against Sevilla on Oct. 20 and missed the 2-0 vic­tory over In­ter in the last round, but had been train­ing with the team in re­cent days.

How­ever, Messi wasn’t even on the bench at San Siro.

“It was a de­ci­sion shared by the team,” Valverde said. “We had to take care of the foot­baller es­pe­cially in a match like this. It was a top match and very in­tense, with lots of tack­les. You never know how some­one can fall and we didn’t want take risks.”

Luis Suarez has made up for Messi’s goals do­mes­ti­cally — with five in his past two matches — but has yet to score this sea­son in the Cham­pi­ons League.

The Uruguay for­ward went close on a num­ber of oc­ca­sions, and al­most gave Barcelona an early lead with an au­da­cious flick that flew nar­rowly over the bar.

Suarez had two chances in quick suc­ces­sion in the first half but Mi­lan Skriniar cleared from al­most on the goalline and the striker’s ef­fort from the re­sult­ing cor­ner flashed across the area.

Barcelona dom­i­nated and had 65 per­cent of the pos­ses­sion, with 27 shots to In­ter’s 10.

How­ever, Han­danovic was equal to ev­ery­thing the Cata­lan club threw at him un­til Valverde brought Mal­com on with nine min­utes re­main­ing.

And just two min­utes later, Mal­com had his first goal for the club, curl­ing a shot be­tween two In­ter play­ers and into the back of the net. It was Mal­com’s first goal for the club and the Brazil­ian was in tears as he was em­braced by his team­mates.

But In­ter sub­sti­tute Lau­taro Martinez also had an im­me­di­ate im­pact as his cross was de­flected into the path of Icardi, who fired in his third goal in four matches in the com­pe­ti­tion. It was his sev­enth goal in his past six In­ter matches.

“I think the goal was de­served be­cause of how the team re­acted af­ter Barcelona’s goal,” In­ter coach Lu­ciano Spal­letti said. “Icardi is the ex­am­ple — af­ter he equal­ized he took the ball and ran back with it to the cen­ter cir­cle. That says a lot, we wanted to win and still thought we could do it.”

Photo: AP

In­ter for­ward Mauro Icardi, left, cel­e­brates af­ter scor­ing his side’s open­ing goal with his team­mate In­ter mid­fielder Ivan Perisic on Tues­day.

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