Barcelona were twice dragged back from the precipice of a humiliating elimination from the UEFA Champions League by Robert Lewandowski’s late goals in an instant classic on Wednesday at the Camp Nou as the hosts drew 3-3 with Inter, barely clinging to a slim hope of advancing to the round-of-16.
Although it might 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.
Barcelona trailed 2-1 in the 82nd minute and were going out until Lewandowski’s shot was deflected into the Inter net.
The Italian club led again in the 89th minute, when Robin Gosens finished a fast break, but Lewandowski rose again two minutes into stoppage-time to head in another leveler.
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 Munich advancing from Group C by beating over-matched Viktoria Plzen in two weeks.
Atletico Madrid are also on the brink after failing to score for a third straight game in a draw against Club Brugge in Group B.
Bayern Munich — who beat Viktoria Plzen 4-2 — and unheralded Club Brugge have no such worries. They have both qualified for the knockout stage with two rounds to spare as leaders of groups where Spanish powers are slumping in third place.
Bayern had a four-goal lead after just 35 minutes, but let their perfect defensive record slip in the second half.
Brugge goalkeeper Simon Mignolet ran his clean sheet streak to four games to put his team four points clear of Porto — whose 3-0 win against Bayer 04 Leverkusen included two penalties scored by Iran striker Mehdi Taremi — and six clear of Atletico with the head-to-head tiebreaker.
Free-scoring SSC Napoli progressed from Group A with a 4-2 win over Ajax to start a stunning evening in the Champions League that delivered 36 goals in eight games.
Also in Group A, Mohamed Salah set a competition record with a hat-trick in 6 minutes, 12 seconds — as a substitute midway through the second half — in Liverpool’s 7-1 blitz against Rangers.
Tottenham Hotspur 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.
Olympique de Marseille rose to second place in Group D by winning 2-0 against Sporting, who finished the game with nine men after two red cards.
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