Robert Lewandowski keeps Barcelona alive in thrilling draw with Inter | Champions League

Barcelona have backed away from the edge but they are still staring into the abyss. A late, late goal from Robert Lewandowski, his second of the night, keeps them in the Champions League – but only narrowly and probably not for long. Three-two, with Robin Gosens apparently slipping the knife just two minutes from time, they were in the 92nd minute when the Pole headed in Barcelona level. Their fate is not in their hands, but at least they are not over. Not yet anyway.

It was a wild night, with an even wilder ending. From 1-0 to 2-1, from 2-2 and chasing the winner that would change everything, at 3-2 then 3-3, Barcelona were left to breathe, albeit barely. After seemingly losing him and then finding a way back, they nearly lost him again, only for Marc-Andre ter Stegen to make a stunning save just at the death. If that had gone in, and it should have, they would have been knocked out of the Champions League with two games to go. Instead, they stumble. They need to win their last two games and hope Inter win one of their own.

The place was packed and Barcelona were eager to continue, with fans whistling Inter goalkeeper Andre Onana for wasting time before he had time to spare. It is true that when he returned to the stadium where he lived but never played, he was not as eager as the home side – and yet it was Inter who had the first chance, when Lautaro Martínez escaped down the left and fired a shot into the side netting.

It turned out the flag was up, but it was a first glimpse of the threat Inter posed when they went way beyond the press and Barcelona’s vulnerability to that loose ball. That risk was revealed again when, from a Barcelona corner, Nicolò Barella made his way past Gavi and into the open space beyond, reaching the area and rolling the ball into Denzel Dumfries’ path, whose shot was blocked by Ter Stegen’s left arm. .

By then, Inter had gone even closer as Edin Dzeko dived to take Hakan Calhanoglu’s delivery on the rebound, his half-volley hitting the bar and falling over the line, where it was somehow scrambled away from the waiting Martínez. Still, it was Barcelona who carried the brunt of the game, with Lewandowski seeing an early header clear of the line. The problem at this stage seemed to be that it was a bit predictable, the ball going into the box too early. A superb angled ball from Eric García to Pedri was an exception.

Robin Gosens (right) celebrates with his team-mates after scoring Inter’s third goal on the counterattack Photography: Joan Monfort/AP

The chances came though, and Barcelona were growing. Just like the number of corners, reaching seven in half an hour. Raphinha stole the clearest of opportunities from Lewandowski’s cross. Onana almost knocked the ball into his own net as his dive saw him fall on the ball from a shot by Ousmane Dembélé, then he reversed a shot from Sergi Roberto, just about recovering when Lewandowski slipped, then he made a clean stop at the feet of Pedri.

Barcelona, ​​however, found a way through. From the back of the corner, Raphinha collected the ball and knocked Federico Dimarco and Henrikh Mkhitaryan out of the game with a clever pass to Sergi Roberto. Alone in the box, he sent it to Dembélé, who sprinted to score and didn’t stop running until he reached the touchline and was in Xavi’s arms.

It was five minutes before the break; five minutes later, Inter equalized. A spearhead pass to Alessandro Bastoni caught Gerard Pique behind his defence, getting everyone on his side. Worse, not only did he step in late, but he raised his hands to see the ball through, oblivious to the danger behind him. Barella, much to Pique’s horror, suddenly alone at close range, controlled, rotated and provided the finish.

The urgency returned, the game opened: it was a lot of fun – or it would have been if it hadn’t been for so much addiction, the tension tearing Barcelona apart. Lewandowski flew at one end. At the other Gavi had to make an acerbic intervention, Ter Stegen superbly saved from Bastoni, and Marcos Alonso had to rescue Pique from deep inside his surface. When Busquets gave the ball away and Calhanoglu hit another long diagonal into the box, Martínez pulled away from García and hit a shot that flew into the net from both posts.

Barcelona have thrown everything at it now. It had to be, whatever the risks. There was no other way back. Frenkie De Jong, Alejandro Balde, Ansu Fati, Franck Kessié and Ferran Torres have all been sent off, with the noise level rising. Lewandowski scored one, had one sent off for offside, then pulled a save from Onana.

A long ball sent Dembele scampering but he fired into the side netting. Time ran and so did they, Balde bombarding the line to deliver the ball that leveled them. Stefan De Vrij spoiled the clearance and Lewandowski was there, a deflected shot making it 2-2 and bringing brief hope and a wild finish but ultimately unsettling reality.

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