Barcelona stepped on the gas right from the whistle and launched several attacks on the Inter goal. They were rewarded as early as 10th minute. Xavi’s corner from left hand side found Thierry Henry who headed it to Gerard Pique as the defender volleyed the ball in back of the net from close range. Inter barely got to touch the ball as Xavi and Andreas Iniesta liked up superbly to dominate possession. With Sergio Busquets and Seydou Keita winning the balls, they did not let the Nerazzurri get out of their own half, and in the 26th minute, Xavi released Daniel Alves down the right flank with a delightful one-touch through pass. Alves crossed the ball over to an incoming Pedro who volleyed to score the second goal.
A sense of urgency began to appear in the Inter camp as they pushed forward to get something out of the game. But they could not get past the Barca midfield and their first shot on goal came a few minutes before half time when Diego Milito’s low shot from 25 yards out was easily saved by Victor Valdes.
Early in the second half, Mourinho made a surprising tactical change to bring on Sulley Muntari for Esteban Cambiasso and switched to a 4-4-2 system. It seemed that Barcelona stepped off the gas in second half as Inter managed to create several half chances. Samuel Eto’o could not make much of Milito’s ball across the face of goal though, and Stankovic’s shot was easily collected by Valdes. This was not enough to threaten Barcelona who created chances of their own, and Julio Cesar had to make a one-handed save off Xavi’s header. Frustration began to appear in the Nerazzurri players as they committed several rash challenges, and Christian Chivu went into the book for blatantly charging on Iniesta as the latter was about to slip past the Romanian defender.
Jose Mourinho: “We are a long way from matching Barcelona in terms of individual quality, the quality of the team and the football system. If we face them in a one or two-match knockout then we can win and anything can happen, but looking at the two teams, they are better.”
Pedro: “It was a very important game for us. We had to get focused and in the first half we had many chances. At the individual level, it was a good game and I scored early in the game”
Barcelona showed the world why exactly they are unequivocally regarded by many as the best team in the world. The victory was as convincing as it was deserved. The Blaugrana were without services of three first-team choices in the form of Yaya Toure, Lionel Messi and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, yet they still they had no problem overcoming a near-full strength Inter squad. It is unlikely that the presence of Wesley Sneijder would have produced a different result.
Losing against Barcelona at Camp Nou by a two-goal margin is hardly a matter of shame. However the manner in which Inter were outclassed was humiliating for the Nerazzurri faithful. Inter should be prepared to face a lot of flak from relentless Italian media. After years of dominating the Italian League, they seem to be making no progress on the European front. The statistics speak for themselves. Barcelona had around 60% possession, produced a little less than twice as many passes and more than thrice as many shots as Inter. Eto’o and Milito cut a sorry figure up front as they were completely devoid of supplies. Stankovic did a poor job of linking up with the forwards. Chivu simply could not cope with the silky skills of Iniesta and got frustrated, as evident from his rash challenge. The only player that stood out for Inter was Julio Cesar who made several crucial saves that kept the scoreline respectable for the Italians. On the basis of this performance, Inter won’t make much progress in the latter stages of the competition.
Barcelona had an almost perfect game and this victory would boost their morale for the upcoming El Clasico against Real Madrid. The magical pair of Xavi and Iniesta delighted the viewers with fluid passing. Those who think that either of these two should win the Golden Ball this year will emphasize that this result was achieved in the absence of Messi, who is the favorite for the award. Busquets and Keita smothered the Inter midfield and the back line was calm and could easily cope with whatever little threat Inter managed to come up with in the second half. Dani Alves was a marauding presence on the right flank as he overshadowed his compatriot Maicon, who is often regarded as the best right-back in the world. Pedro’s ascendancy in the Catalonian club is astonishing. The youngster produces one good game after another as he has eclipsed Bojan Krkic this season.
With this result, Barcelona go on top of Group F, followed by Inter in second place, but none of the teams have qualified for the knockout stages yet. Barcelona need only a draw against Dynamo Kiev in Ukraine whereas Inter need to defeat Rubin Kazan to guarantee a place in last sixteen. Given the exploits of the Russian champions against Barcelona, it would be suicidal for Inter to take the result for granted. But one would expect both of these clubs to progress through to the next round.
Barcelona 2-0 Inter – Pique 10, Pedro 26
Barcelona (4-3-3): Valdes – Dani Alves, Pique , Puyol, Abidal (Maxwell 89) – Xavi, Busquets, Keita – Pedro (Bojan 85), Henry, Iniesta (Dos Santos 94)
Inter (4-3-1-2): Julio Cesar – Maicon, Lucio, Samuel, Chivu – Zanetti, Motta , Cambiasso (Muntari 46) – Stankovic (Balotelli 71) – Milito (Quaresma 81), Etoo
Barcelona – Inter
6 – Corners – 3
10 (5) – Shots (on target) – 3 (2)
13 – Fouls – 18
2 (0) – Yellow cards (Red) – 3 (0)
5 – Offside – 4