- Inter Milan hosted Viktoria Plzen in the UEFA Champions League at the San Siro
- Inter needed a win to seal their place in the round of 16 and eliminate Barcelona in the process
- A brace from Edin Dzeko and a return from Lukaku made sure Inter saw off the visitors
Inter earned their place in the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League and at the same time eliminated Barcelona after cruising to an Edin Dzeko-inspired 4-0 win over Viktoria Plzen at San Siro.
The Nerazzurri had in mind that they would be through regardless if Barcelona failed to win later in the day at home to Bayern Munich, but Simone Inzaghi’s men removed all doubt with an impressive display in San Siro.
Initially there were hints of nervousness when Inter spurned a couple of first-half opportunities, but Henrikh Mkhitaryan broke the dreadlock before Dzeko ensured it was effectively game over – for Plzen and Barcelona – by half-time.
A clinical Dzeko finish just past the hour mark was then added to by substitute Romelu Lukaku as he scored a late goal on his return from injury as Inter eased into the next round.
Inter’s dominance paid off in the 35th minute following a frustrating first half-hour.
Alessandro Bastoni charged up the left and crossed after a one-two with Federico Dimarco, and Mkhitaryan was on hand to nod in at the back post.
Dzeko ducking out of the way proved crucial to Mkhitaryan getting that opportunity, though the Bosnian soon had a goal of his own.
Dimarco latched on to Nicolo Barella’s exquisite long-range pass and played a first-time ball into the danger zone for Dzeko to tap home close to half-time.
Mkhitaryan nearly added a spectacular second just after the break, his 25-yard effort clipping the outside of the post.
But Dzeko did double his tally, guiding a controlled left-footed effort into the bottom-left corner from the centre of the box following good work by Lautaro Martinez.
Substitute Lukaku then found the same corner in the 87th minute with an emphatic finish after two months out.
Inter’s four points from two games against the Blaugrana ultimately proved decisive in the Nerazzurri pipping them to last-16 qualification.
No doubt Barcelona would rather have been playing at the same time as Inter, with there something even more embarrassing about elimination before you have even played.
While a lot of focus will clearly be on Barca, Inter’s progression is something of a statement – arguably written off by many when the draw was made, they will remain in the Champions League in 2023.
Dzeko may hog the headlines with his two-goal haul, but Dimarco deserves praise for his performance.
The left wing-back was involved in both of Inter’s first two goals and tallied five key passes in total, more than anyone else on the pitch.
It took Lukaku just four minutes to mark his return to action, and he did so in trademark fashion.
The Belgium striker brilliantly held off his man on the edge of the box, played a one-two with Joaquin Correa and fired past Jindrich Stanek. It was the icing on the cake for Inter.
Inter are at home to Sampdoria in Serie A on Saturday, before concluding their Group C campaign away to Bayern next Tuesday when Plzen host Barcelona on Tuesday.
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