Barcelona have dug themselves a huge hole in the Champions League group stage thanks to a painful 1-0 defeat to Inter Milan at San Siro on Tuesday night. Barça played their worst game of the season for 65 minutes but had chances at the end and were denied a chance to score the equalizer by a horrible VAR decision, and are now in danger of going to the Europa League once again with three games to go in the group stage.
Barça made a solid start to the game, dominating possession and forcing Inter to defend very deep and resort to long balls to try and get out of their half. The Blaugrana didn’t create a real chance, but they were clearly the better side in the first 15 minutes.
Hakan Çalhanoglu did fire a warning shot in that opening 15 minutes with a long effort from distance that forced a save from Marc-André ter Stegen, and Inter proved that they could create trouble on the break. And as time went on and their defense looked more and more difficult to break down, their gameplan started to prove superior and they were the better team on the pitch for the final half-hour of the period.
The Nerazzurri could have gotten a penalty and scored a goal on the counter, but VAR saved Barça with two tight offside calls. But Inter didn’t give up and kept on going, and finally got the goal they deserved when Çalhanoglu received a pass at the edge of the box and had time to pick his shot and find the bottom corner to give his team the lead just before halftime.
The home team led at the break and were looking very comfortable against a slow, lazy Barça attack that needed to improve a ton to have any chance in the second half.
The first 20 minutes of the second half were pretty much more of the same for Barça, who had all of the possession but couldn’t create any danger thanks to slow passing with zero penetration or creativity, and Inter were never in trouble at the back.
But the Italians couldn’t replicate their counter-attacking prowess from the first half, so the game became a tough watch as neither team could bother the opposing defense. But Xavi sent Alejandro Balde and Ansu Fati off the bench, and the two youngsters made the team better with their energy and skills.
Barça became a lot more dynamic and started playing faster and with more intensity, and they even got an equalizer through Pedri but it was disallowed by VAR for an accidental handball by Ansu Fati.
The final 15 minutes were all about Barça’s pursuit of an equalizer as the Blaugrana sent cross after cross into the box, and they had one golden chance after a cross from Ousmane Dembélé found Sergio Busquets all alone inside the six-yard box but the captain somehow headed the ball over the bar.
Time was running out and it seemed as though Barça were not going to have another chance, but Denzel Dumfries committed a clear penalty with a handball inside the box. Somehow, someway, VAR decided that it wasn’t a penalty, and Barça were robbed of a golden opportunity to equalize thanks to a truly ridiculous refereeing decision.
Time finally ran out after nearly 10 minutes of added time, and the final whistle came to end a very bad night for Barça at San Siro. They are in a bad situation in the group and will fight for their Champions League lives against Inter next week, but they should have had at least the chance to get a point from the penalty spot.
Barça’s performance was very bad. They were also robbed by a truly terrible refereeing decision. Both things can be true.
Inter Milan: Onana; Skriniar, De Vrij (Acerbi 77’), Bastoni; Darmian (Dumfries 77’), Barella, Çalhanoglu (Asllani 85’), Mkhitaryan, Dimarco (Gosens 77’); Lautaro, Correa (Dzeko 56’)
Goal: Çalhanoglu (45+2’)
Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Roberto, Christensen (Piqué 58’), Eric, Alonso (Balde 64’); Gavi (Kessie 83’), Busquets, Pedri; Dembélé, Lewandowski, Raphinha (Fati 64’)