Job well done for Valverde and team

Sport360 - - Champions League - By Tom All­nutt @toma­ll­nuttafp ✉ ed­i­to­

Ernesto Valverde de­clared him­self happy af­ter Barcelona qual­i­fied for the Cham­pi­ons League last 16 fol­low­ing a 1-1 draw at In­ter Mi­lan.

Barca, who would have sealed first place in Group B with a vic­tory at the San Siro, grabbed the lead in the 83rd minute through sub­sti­tute Mal­com’s strike.

Mauro Icardi then lev­elled four min­utes later as the vis­i­tors dropped points in the pool for the first time.

Barcelona boss Valverde was quoted by Marca as say­ing in his post-match press con­fer­ence: “We wanted to close out our lead, we did ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble, but we’re happy be­cause we man­aged to qual­ify.

“We played a great game, the qual­ity of In­ter is that they know how to han­dle them­selves very well.

“They have earned many points in the last mo­ments of matches.”

Lionel Messi was once again not in­volved, as for Barca’s pre­vi­ous four matches. Messi, who has been re­cov­er­ing from a frac­tured arm, re­turned to train­ing last week and had trav­elled with his team-mates to Italy.

Valverde said of not in­clud­ing the Ar­gen­tinian in his match­day 18: “We didn’t want to take a risk with Leo. We were care­ful in train­ing, but we knew that to­day’s match would be like how it was.”

While Barcelona are through with 10 points from four games, sec­ond-placed In­ter have seven points and Tot­ten­ham, up to third af­ter beat­ing PSV Eind­hoven 2-1, have four. The next round of matches sees Barca travel to PSV and In­ter take on Spurs away.

Valverde added with re­gard to the Ital­ians: “They have a clear strat­egy, which is to al­ways at­tack and be ag­gres­sive with their press­ing.

“I don’t know what route In­ter or us will have af­ter tonight, but of course they are a team to con­sider, they have the DNA of never giv­ing in and they will take that spirit into the Tot­ten­ham match.”

In­ter boss Lu­ciano Spal­letti praised his side for the re­ac­tion to Mal­com’s goal.

“We wanted to put in a per­for­mance that the fans could ap­pre­ci­ate and the team re­sponded in the right way,” said Spal­letti, quoted on In­ter’s of­fi­cial web­site.

“We were brave and we per­formed in line with what the crowd wanted.”

Hap­pier than he looks: Valverde.

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