With Lionel Messi left out of the squad, FC Barcelona battled to a tough 1-2 win over Inter Milan in the Champions League on Tuesday when Ansu Fati made history.
Here’s what we learned from the tie:
There were surprise nods all round
Barça already clinching Group F, rare starting berths went to Neto, Moussa Wague, Jean-Clair Todibo and Carleses Aleña and Perez.
And surprise tactical approaches too
With a flat back three of central defenders, Junior Firpo and Wague were placed slightly further up the field than usual in a five-man midfield while Antoine Griezmann and Carles Perez were up top.
Perez almost put the Blaugrana 0-1 ahead with their first chance of note
After Romelu Lukaka rightfully had a goal disallowed for being offside, Aleña played a brilliant through ball in behind the defenders for Perez to run onto on the visitors’ following move. Taking a one-touch shot, Perez forced a diving save from Samir Handanovic.
It was down the left flank that the danger came in the opening 20 minutes
Making his maiden outing on the continent, Perez had some nice early work going with Jordi Alba-stand in Junior Firpo.
But it was down the right that the opening goal came
Perez was still front and centre, though. When Wague laid it off to Griezmann, the Frenchman played a masterful ball into the box that Diego Godin blocked straight into Carles Perez’s path. Capping a dream UCL debut, the La Masia academy product cooly smashed it into the back of the net to put Barça 0-1 to the good.
The Martinez-Lukaku connection hurt FCB
You’d expect it to be the other way round, but with his back turned to goal after receiving a long ball, Barça target Lautaro Martinez held it up excellently for Lukaku to smash past Neto on the stroke of half time. Inter were back in it, with everything to play for.
Hurry back, Jordi Alba
It has been said before in this column, but of the few takeaways from the early second half, the main one was that Junior Firpo is not making the grade. As mentioned, he started somewhat bright, but when not caught out of position, his delivery was poor and were the right-back not injured too, Nelson Semedo would be standing in for Alba instead.
The board AREN’T crazy in getting rid of Todibo
In the first half, social media was awash with claims that FCB are mad to be looking at moving the young Frenchman on in January. At fault for Lukaka’s equaliser, however, he was bullied by the bulky Belgian and Martinez. A buyback clause means that he could still come back at any given time were he to blossom in other climes.
Suarez came on to take the armband
Relieving Rakitic of captaining duties, the Uruguayan came on with Frenkie de Jong as Antoine Griezmann also exited stage left in the 63rd minute.
Lautaro has to be signed
Talked up for an age as the perfect successor to Suarez, calls were made for the Argentine to board the flight back to Catalonia with the FCB squad after another impressive showing here.
Ansu Fati is the youngest scorer in Champions League history
Playing a slick 1-2 with Suarez on the edge of the box, the 17-year-old sent Inter out of the competition with his late winner and became the youngest scorer in the history of club soccer’s greatest competition.
The kids are alright
Thinking about life after Messi keeps club top brass and fans awake at night, but with the likes of Fati, Perez, Aleña and the cut Riqui Puig all coming through, the future is bright for Barça. Repaying Valverde’s trust, they showed character in a tough-earned victory.
To the knockouts we go
Unbeaten so far in the tournament, FC Barcelona go into the knockout phases having licked Inter for the first time at the San Siro. Unbeaten in the group phase since 2016, they trounced the leaders of the Italian Serie A with their reserve team and, more remarkably, minus Messi.
Source: Tom Sanderson