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Inter strikes 1st blow in CL fight for 2nd with Barcelona

Inter Milan's Hakan Calhanoglu celebrates scoring the opening goal during the Champions League group C soccer match between Inter Milan and Barcelona at the San Siro stadium in Milan, Italy, Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)
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MILAN (AP) — It’s an advantage for Inter Milan in what has been billed as the fight for the 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.

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.

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.