In a tough match against Inter Milan, Barcelona recorded their first win of the Champions League season. The visitors opened the scoring through Lautaro Martínez’s early goal as Inter played a strong first half, but Barcelona staged a comeback after the break, scoring two goals to complete the turnaround with Luis Suarez bagging the brace.
After drawing in the first round of the competition, Barcelona sent out another strong lineup, though without a natural left-back, with Junior Firpo being a late omission with a hamstring injury. Nelson Semedo took the Brazilian’s spot while Sergi Roberto manned the right side.
Barcelona started brightly, quickly launching a good attack that Antoine Griezmann ended with a long distance try that was easily saved by Samir Handanović. But Barcelona positives didn’t last long as an Inter free kick in their own half, coupled with Gerard Pique stepping up from his spot to (unsuccessfully) try and stop the attack, led to Lautaro being sprung on goal. Clement Lenglet was putting pressure on Lautaro, but the Argentine remained in possession and in control and beat Marc-Andre ter Stegen to the far post for the early lead.
Despite the lead, Inter weren’t playing particularly attacking football. They were happy to sit deep and crowd the middle, while looking to quickly transition into attack whenever Barcelona lost the ball. The five-man Inter back-line allowed very little space inside the area, and the three deep midfielders harassed Barcelona outside of the area.
After 15 minutes, Barcelona created their best chance up to this point, as Roberto sent a high cross from the right side and found Griezmann in the middle, but the Frenchman’s header whistled over the bar. Inter, seemingly out of nowhere, countered immediately, after another poor reaction from the central defense. Lautaro was again in action and was able to round the keeper, but his touch was heavy and led him too far wide and was unable to get a shot off.
Both teams were pressing deep in opposing areas, but neither had much success. From their high press, Barcelona even allowed a couple half chances the other way… Barcelona launched a good attack down the left side in the 19th minute and it led to Sergio Busquets having a good look on goal from the edge of the area, but the midfielder missed over the bar by about a foot. A few minutes later, Lionel Messi took his first shot – from outside of the box – but even though he had some difficulties, Handanović was able to make the save.
Barcelona went through some tough times over the next period, with Inter buzzing around the home side ball-carriers, often leading to turnovers. Antonio Candreva even found the back of the net in the 27th minute, but the goal was correctly ruled out for offside. Six minutes later, Inter created another good chance, Alexis Sanchez finding Nicolò Barella just inside the area who had a perfect look on goal, but a diving Semedo blocked the shot. The visitors probably should’ve doubled their lead in the 37th minute after perfect header on goal from Lautaro after an excellent cross from Candreva, but ter Stegen made a marvelous save to keep Barcelona in the game.
Just moments later Inter threatened again, again on a quick counter after Barcelona committed (too) many players to harass Handanović and the defenders. Stefano Sensi tried his luck this time, but sailed it just over. Barcelona were dominating possession, but had nothing to show for, as every attack went through the middle. Roberto oftentimes disappeared in the crowd while Semedo tried to make deep runs, but was playing with a massive handicap being a right-footed player playing as a left back and always needed an extra touch to set himself.
Barcelona almost took advantage of a rare Inter turnover in the 44th minute, but after a lovely run through the right side of the visitors’ defense Arthur wasn’t able to direct his shot on goal. Inter would create the last scoring chance of the half, though. Lautaro was again found with a lovely through ball through the middle, but Semedo was alert and made a great defensive play to help out his central defenders that again went missing in action.
The poor first half – from Barcelona’s perspective - was mercifully whistled for its end by Damir Skomina just seconds into added time. The Catalans were outworked, outperformed, outcoached and most importantly outscored all the while domination possession to the tune of 65-35 and outshooting Inter 9-6. However, none of Barcelona’s shots could actually be described as a scoring opportunity while Inter looked dangerous whenever crossing the midfield.
Neither manager made any substitutions during the break, even though Arturo Vidal was warming up at the end of the first half. The second half picture was very similar to the first. Barcelona immediately stepped on the ball, but were passing around a deep eight-man box in which attacks often ended with poor passing.
Vidal didn’t have to wait long to join play, though, as he was brought on in the 53rd minute in place of Busquets. The Chilean was quickly in action, after he was found by Griezmann, but his shot was blocked. Five minutes later, Barcelona tied it up. Again the hosts were on a long attack, though this time extended the defensive line first to one side with Semedo doing the heavy lifting, and after a quick transition to the other side where Messi did his magic. Then Vidal found a wide open Suarez on the edge of the area from where the Uruguayan powered the ball in with a perfectly placed half-volley.
Just after the one-hour mark, Barcelona came close to taking the lead, but Griezmann just missed the near post after he was found by Messi. However, had he scored, the goal might have been taken back by VAR for offside. Not much changed after the equalizer as both sides continued with their respective game plans.
With 25 minutes left to play, Ernesto Valverde made his second substitution, Ousmane Dembele taking Griezmann’s spot, while Antonio Conte closed down even more space by brining on Roberto Gagliardini in place of Alexis. Dembele quickly tried to make an impression, but powered his howitzer over the crossbar.
Barcelona were now spending even more time in Inter’s third and while Inter were coping with endless attacks, the Italian’s weren’t as lively anymore and Inter’s rare counter attacks lacked pace and numbers. Ter Stegen created some tension in the 77th minute by leaving his line and clearing the ball for a throw-in that Inter took quickly, but Danilo D’Ambrosio couldn’t find the target from a tough position.
Substitute Matteo Politano almost put Inter back in the lead in the 83rd minute after a lighting quick counter after a Dembele turnover, but Lenglet made a great block. Barcelona countered immediately and took their first lead. Messi made a brilliant run down the right wing, taking on defender after defender before finding Suarez in the middle just outside of the box. Suarez’s first touch was perfect, chipping the ball past compatriot Diego Godin with just enough pace to run onto and slot the ball past Handanović with a left-footed shot.
Messi’s show continued as he made another slalom run the very next minute, but this one didn’t lead to a scoring chance. The Argentine had a good look to score in the 89th minute after a low cross from Dembele, but his shot lacked power to beat the Slovenian in goal.
Three minutes were added on and Barcelona were looking to calmly bring the game to an end amid Inter’s high press. Inter were in possession the final moments of the match, but the Italians were seemingly without any ideas and Barcelona’s defense went untested. With the win Barcelona joined Borussia Dortmund at the top of the standings with four points. One game left to play before another international break, and it’s a big one – against Sevilla.