Football: Inter seal Champions League last-16 place, Barca out

Inter Milan's Romelu Lukaku (right) celebrates with teammate Kristjan Asllani after scoring his team's fourth goal. PHOTO: AFP

MILAN - Inter Milan sailed into the Champions League last 16 after an Edin Dzeko double fired them to a 4-0 home win over Viktoria Plzen in Group C on Wednesday, a result that eliminated Barcelona and relegated them to the Europa League.

The Italians moved up to 10 points with the win, six clear of Barca who were hosting Bayern Munich later on Wednesday.

Even if Barca beat the Germans and win their final group game against Plzen, Inter will still qualify with a better head-to-head record against the Catalans.

A lively opening yielded early chances for Inter but they were thwarted by Plzen goalkeeper Jindrich Stanek who pulled off a superb double save in the 25th minute before Henrikh Mkhitaryan put the hosts ahead 10 minutes later.

The former AS Roma midfielder turned in Alessandro Bastoni’s looping cross and veteran Dzeko then put Inter in total command when he tapped home after Federico Dimarco had latched on to Nicolo Barella’s excellent crossfield pass.

Plzen, winless in this year’s competition, offered little offensive threat and were sliced open again in the 66th minute as Dzeko added to his tally when he swept in Lautaro Martinez’s pass inside the area.

“For the first 15 minutes we did not do very well. But after the first goal we tried to play our game and after we scored the second the game was done,” Dzeko, who was also on target in the reverse fixture, told Nova Sport.

“I have a relationship with Plzen. I score almost every time I play against them and tonight it was nice too.”

Romelu Lukaku marked his long-awaited return from injury with a goal as he completed the rout after slotting past Stanek following a perfectly weighted through ball from Joaquin Correa.

Inter Milan’s Romelu Lukaku scores their fourth goal. PHOTO: REUTERS

“We are sorry to have lost, we were in the game for a relatively long time and had some counters. But after our mistakes we conceded cheap goals and it was repeated again and again,” said Plzen captain Lukas Hejda.

“Dzeko is an uncompromising goalscorer who has the know-how to score against us, while we really do not know how to defend (against) him.” REUTERS

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