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Dublin: 6 °C Monday 27 January, 2020

Barca cruise past Inter without Messi, Dortmund hammer Atletico and Henry's Monaco held to draw

It was a hectic night of Champions League action.

Victories for Dortmund and Barcelona tonight while Monaco drew.
Victories for Dortmund and Barcelona tonight while Monaco drew.
Image: PA

RAFINHA REPLACED LIONEL Messi and helped Barcelona win without him as the Brazilian scored the opener in a 2-0 Champions League victory over Inter Milan on tonight.

The result continues Barcelona’s good start in Group B with Borussia Dortmund in a similar position in Group A after they claimed an impressive 4-0 win over one of Barcelona’s La Liga rivals Atletico Madrid. In the same group Thierry Henry saw his Monaco side held to a 1-1 draw by Club Brugge.

With Messi out for three weeks and Real Madrid next up at the Camp Nou on Sunday, the question was whether Barcelona could cope without their star player and captain.

The answer may not have been resounding – they lacked some punch before Jordi Alba added a late second – but this controlled performance will certainly send them into the Clasico with a spring in their step.

Luis Suarez, Arthur and Philippe Coutinho were all excellent in Messi’s absence. Victory all-but secures Barcelona’s passage to the Champions League last 16 too. They have nine points from three games and now sit top of Group B.

Messi was watching in the stands with his son Ciro and his fractured right arm in a sling. As soon as the ball left the centre circle, the fans sang his name.

Barca had drawn with Athletic Bilbao in the only other match this season he had not started, and that could have been a defeat were it not for him setting up the equaliser.

Rafinha, who was playing on loan at Inter only five months ago, was a surprise replacement. Ousmane Dembele was the one expected to come in and the fact the Frenchman remained on the bench until the end does not speak well of his current status.

For the opening goal Rafinha started the move, the ball spilling out of a midfield tussle and into his path. He sent it right to Suarez, whose chipped cross reunited with Rafinha, who had continued his run and sidefooted home.

Spain Soccer Champions League Luis Suarez celebrates Barcelona's goal with team-mate Rafinha. Source: Manu Fernandez

Coutinho went closest to another before half-time, his free-kick deflecting inches wide, but Inter had a better spell after the break. Ter Stegen had to scoop away a Perisic cross and Matteo Politano, on as a substitute, should have capitalised on some careless defending.

Barca came again. Suarez wiggled through, Lenglet hit Handanovic from close range and Coutinho struck the crossbar after a sensational counter-attack, begun by a brilliant Arthur flick.

Arthur departed to a standing ovation soon after and with eight minutes left, Alba finally made sure of the win. He pushed Ivan Rakitic’s ball past Milan Skriniar and drove into the far corner. There was there still time for one more Messi chant before the final whistle blew.

Borussia Dortmund stunned Atletico Madrid with a 4-0 thrashing , as English teenager Jadon Sancho scored his first goal in the competition.

Germany Soccer Champions League Borussia Dortmund players celebrate a famous victory. Source: Martin Meissner

It was the heaviest Champions League defeat ever suffered by Diego Simeone in seven years as Atletico head coach and put Dortmund top of Group A after both teams had previously beaten Club Brugge and Monaco.

Axel Witsel gave Dortmund the lead at Signal Iduna Park when his first-half shot took a wicked deflection, before Raphael Guerreiro, who scored twice in the second half, and 18-year-old Sancho came off the bench to grab the other goals.

Dortmund were without in-form Spanish striker Paco Alcacer, who has scored seven times in just four Bundesliga games, with a leg injury, while Diego Costa returned to partner Antoine Griezmann up front for Atletico.

An injury-hit Monaco failed to give Thierry Henry his first win as a head coach with a 1-1 Champions League draw at Club Brugge on Wednesday.

Moussa Sylla raised hopes of Monaco ending an 11-match winless streak by opening the scoring just after the half-hour mark at the Jan Breydel Stadium, but Wesley struck for the Belgian champions to secure a point.

Belgium Soccer Champions League Thierry Henry before Monaco's match against Club Brugge. Source: AP/PA Images

“We are a little less negative than at Strasbourg,” said Henry, after a defeat by Strasbourg in his coaching bow on Saturday. “But a draw is a draw, it’s not a victory.”

The principality club have now also gone 11 Champions League games without a victory since their thrilling 6-3 aggregate triumph over Borussia Dortmund in the 2016-17 quarter-finals.

Henry, who took over from the sacked Leonardo Jardim earlier this month, saw his young side put in a spirited display despite being depleted by a raft of injuries, although the result leaves both sides facing elimination from Group A.

“It’s not easy to get points away from home, but we’re not going to get carried away,” added the 41-year-old former Arsenal star.

© AFP 2018

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