MILAN (AP) — It’s advantage Inter Milan in what has been billed the fight for second spot in Group C.
Hakan Çalhanoğlu scored the only goal of the match in first-half stoppage time as Inter beat Barcelona 1-0 in the Champions League on Tuesday to move second behind Bayern Munich, which seems set to run away with the group.
Both sides also had goals disallowed and Barcelona hit the post, while the visitors also felt they should have had a penalty right at the end of the eight minutes of stoppage time. Inter defender Denzel Dumfries appeared to handle a cross when trying to head the ball away, but images from a different angle suggested Ansu Fati got his head to it.
“I’m outraged … no one can understand what happened,” Barcelona coach Xavi said. “It’s my opinion obviously, I would have wanted to talk to the referee, why he didn’t whistle, was it a mistake? … But it’s a great injustice. The referee should face up to us, instead he goes away and nothing happens. He should come here and give us an explanation.”
Bayern routed Viktoria Plzeň 5-0 earlier to maintain its perfect start to the competition and it has also yet to concede a goal.
That leaves Barcelona and Inter seemingly fighting it out for second spot and the battle will resume at Camp Nou next Wednesday.
Both Inter and Barcelona had experienced similar starts in the Champions League, beating Plzeň and losing 2-0 to Bayern. But they have had contrasting domestic form. Barcelona topped the Spanish league table after winning its previous six league matches, while Inter had lost four of its last six Serie A games to leave coach Simone Inzaghi under pressure.
Some of that pressure will have been removed with Inter’s first win over Barcelona since its 3-1 Champions League semifinal victory in 2010, on the Nerazzurri’s way to the treble under José Mourinho. That was followed by one draw and four defeats.
“It’s an important night, it should give us confidence,” Inzaghi said. “We’re going through a difficult moment but the victory against Barcelona will remain … The guys put their heads and their hearts into the game.”
Inzaghi’s game plan was clearly to defend in numbers and counter at pace and that almost led to the opening goal but Marc-André ter Stegen did well to fingertip Çalhanoğlu’s powerful, 30-yard effort over the bar.
Inter thought it should have got a penalty midway through the first half for a handball by Barcelona defender Eric García but play was waved on and, after reviewing the incident on the pitchside monitor, referee Slavko Vinčić decided that Nerazzurri forward Lautaro Martínez had been offside in the buildup and interfering with play despite not touching the ball.
The home side did have the ball in the back of the net a few minutes later but Joaquín Correa had been marginally offside when he collected Federico Dimarco’s pass and raced forward before rounding Ten Stegen and depositing into an empty net.
Inter broke the deadlock on the stroke of halftime when Dimarco laid the ball off to Çalhanoğlu on the edge of the area and he drilled a precise effort into the bottom left corner to set the San Siro rocking.
Barcelona almost leveled in the 61st but Ousmane Dembélé’s effort came off the left post.
The visitors thought they had got the equalizer shortly afterward when Inter goalkeeper André Onana flapped at a cross from the right and Pedri tapped in at the back post but, after again taking to the pitchside monitor, Vinčić disallowed it for a handball by Ansu Fati immediately prior to the shot.
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