Barcelona veteran Gerard Pique made a costly mistake as Xavi Hernandez’s side stared into the abyss with their Champions League dreams.
A 3-3 home draw with Inter Milan has left the Catalan club facing a costly early exit from the competition after using much of their controversial summer deal for a strong run in the competition.
Barcelona will be eliminated from the competition should Inter Milan beat a pointless Viktoria Pilsen in their next game.
After last week’s 1-0 defeat at the San Siro, Barcelona knew that just a win at the Nou Camp would be enough this week and they got off to the perfect start thanks to Ousmane Dembele’s opener.
But Pique, making only his fourth start this season, his first in the Champions League, gave Inter Milan an invaluable equaliser.
After Alessandro Bastoni played an aimless ball and Inter Milan chased an equaliser, Pique stepped forward and put the ball to what he thought was his goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
Lurking behind him and the rest of the Barcelona back four, however, was Barella, who gratefully accepted the gift presented to him by the four-time Champions League defender.
Hard to believe what they were seeing, Gavi tried to chase back but his slide challenge wasn’t enough to stop Barella from placing the ball over an unfortunate ter Stegen.
Xavi said of the mistake: “There were too many mistakes, their first goal was a clear mistake by our defence, we gave them too many chances. Football is a game of mistakes and we can’t afford to make mistakes in situations like this.
“This is the Champions League and you pay a heavy price for every mistake you make.
“You have to win, defend well, score. We had to play the whole game like we did in the first half. That intensity. Now it’s difficult because we don’t have any control anymore.’
Seemingly shaken by the equaliser, Inter Milan sensed blood running through the ranks of Barcelona and pressed for the killer strike.
They found it 13 minutes after being equalized by Lautaro Martinez. Robert Lewandowski’s equalizer in the 82nd minute seemed to give the Catalans a goal from the stands, but Robin Gosen’s goal just before the 90th minute seemed to have done the trick.
Lewandowski scored again to set up a nervous few minutes for Inter Milan but they held on to secure a valuable draw and put them within reach of the last 16.
The result leaves Barcelona’s ambitions in Europe in ruins, many of which underpinned their heavy summer spending.
The club faces relegation to the Europa League for the second time in two seasons. For a club that claims to be the greatest in the world and has won four Champions Leagues this century, that is seemingly unacceptable.
Xavi told Movistar Plus after the game: “It’s bad, I think this Champions League is very cruel to us.
“It’s out of our hands now. What’s left for us is to quickly turn our attention to Sunday’s El Clasico (against Real Madrid), hit back and focus on La Liga because the Champions League became very difficult and complicated for us.