MILAN (AP) — Inter Milan advanced to the knockout stages of the Champions League, eliminating Barcelona in the process.
Inter beat Viktoria Plzen 4-0 on Wednesday to at least secure second place in Group C with one game remaining, with Barcelona facing their second straight group stage elimination even before Bayern Munich to play in
And, to cap a fine night for Inter, the final goal was scored by Romelu Lukaku, four minutes after returning as a late substitute after two months out from injury.
Edin Dzeko scored two more Inter goals, after Henrik Mkhitaryan’s opener.
Inter coach Simone Inzaghi was suspended for the game after his late red card in the 3-3 draw with Barcelona, so assistant Massimiliano Faris was on the touchline.
Pilsen managed to contain Inter’s attacking threat in the early stages although the home side had three chances to take the lead in the 25th minute.
Federico Dimarco’s angled shot was deflected by Jendrich Stanic but the momentum continued. The goalkeeper made another good stop to keep out Mkhitaryan’s header from point-blank range, sending DeMarco Fallon into the sidenetting.
However, Inter broke the deadlock 10 minutes later when Alessandro Bastoni whipped in a cross from the left and Mkhitaryan headed in at the far post.
Inter doubled their lead three minutes from the break with a flurry of team moves. Dimarco latched on to Niccolò Barella’s crossfield pass into the penalty area and flicked it past an unmarked Dzeko for a very simple goal of his own from three yards out.
Mkhitaryan almost doubled the lead early in the second half but his long-range effort came off the right post.
Dzeko got the second in the 66th, heading into the bottom left corner after Lautaro Martinez squared the ball towards him.
It was Dzeko’s 12th goal in 10 games against Plzeň and 11th in the last six games.
Džeko was given a standing ovation, but he reacted even harsher shortly after when Lukaku came on with seven minutes remaining.
However, the loudest cheers from a packed San Siro came four minutes later when the Belgian forward tucked the ball into the back of the net.