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Lewandowski gives Barcelona space to breathe

Free-scoring Napoli also progressed with a 4-2 win over Ajax to kick off a stunning evening in the Champions League
Robert Lewandowski leaps to score Barcelona’s third goal against Inter Milan during the Champions League match at Camp Nou on Wednesday.
Robert Lewandowski leaps to score Barcelona’s third goal against Inter Milan during the Champions League match at Camp Nou on Wednesday.
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AP/PTI, Reuters   |   Barcelona   |   Published 14.10.22, 03:49 AM

FC Barcelona were twice dragged back from the precipice of a humiliating Champions League elimination by Robert Lewandowski’s late goals. An instant classic at Camp Nou on Wednesday saw Barcelona draw 3-3 with Inter Milan and barely cling to a slim hope of advancing to the round-of-16. Atletico Madrid are also on the brink after failing to score for a third straight game.

No such worries for Bayern Munich and unheralded Club Brugge who each advanced to the knockout stage with two rounds to spare as leaders of groups where Spanish powers are slumping in third place. Free-scoring Napoli also progressed with a 4-2 win over Ajax to kick off a stunning evening in the Champions League that delivered 36 goals in eight games. Mohamed Salah set a competition record with a hat-trick in six minutes, 12 seconds — as a substitute midway through the second half — in Liverpool’s 7-1 blitz at Rangers.

Though it may just have been a stay of execution for Barcelona, the five-time European champions were grateful to be alive after a thrilling final few minutes against Inter. Barcelona trailed 2-1 in the 82nd minute and was going out until Lewandowski’s shot was deflected into the Internet. The Italians led again in the 89th, when Robin Gosens finished a fast break, but Lewandowski rose again two minutes into stoppage time to head another leveller.

There was still time for Inter to waste chances to win, Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen to make two more saves, and Inter coach Simone Inzaghi to be shown a red card. Still, Inter now hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over Barcelona and will join Bayern advancing from Group C by beating over-matched Viktoria Plzen in two weeks’ time. Bayern had a four-goal lead after just 35 minutes at Plzen but let their perfect defensive record slip in the second half of a 4-2 win.

Brugge goalkeeper Simon Mignolet ran his clean sheet streak to four games in a 0-0 draw at Atletico, to move four points clear of Porto and six clear of Atletico with the head-to-head tie-breaker. Porto’s 3-0 win at Bayer Leverkusen included two penalties scored by Iran striker Mehdi Taremi. Tottenham lead Group D for the first time after beating Eintracht Frankfurt 3-2, with first goals from Son Heung-min either side of a Harry Kane penalty. Kane also missed a late penalty.

“Everything is in our hands,” Conte told a news conference. Marseille rose to second place by winning 2-0 against Sporting Lisbon, which finished the game with nine men after two red cards.

Europa taunt 

Barcelona never failed to advance to the Champions League knockout round in the 17 years Lionel Messi was on the team. Without him, back-to-back failures beckon in two weeks’ time with a game to spare. Barcelona will be eliminated if they lose at home to Lewandowski’s former club Bayern on October 26. Even a win will not be enough if Inter win either of their last two games.

Brugge’s rise

Club Brugge’s progress through this Champions League is a riposte to the Super League project that failed last year with Barcelona as one of the main drivers. The Belgian champions have a storied European history, reaching two finals in the 1970s — losing both to Liverpool — went deep in the first Champions League in 1992- 93 and have played often in it since.

However, Brugge became the kind of opponents Super League teams grew bored with and wanted to leave behind to get more money playing only each other. Brugge were out of their depth on a long-awaited return to the Champions League groups in 2016-17, losing all six games. Now six years and five campaigns later, Brugge have broken through in a group where they were the lowest-ranked team.

Porto’s 3-0 win at Leverkusen lifted the two-time European champions into second place two points clear of Atletico. When Liverpool trailed after 17 minutes at Rangers, it shaped to be another tough night in this stuttering start to the season where Juergen Klopp’s team has yet to win on the road. Seven minutes later Roberto Firmino levelled and the Brazil forward added a second in the 55th. Darwin Nunez, Salah and finally Harvey Elliott padded the lead. Liverpool moved six points clear of third-placed Ajax in Group A and need just a draw from their game in Amsterdam in two weeks.



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