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Inter Milan seals Champions League last-16 place and eliminates Barcelona

MILAN - Inter Milan sailed into the Champions League last 16 after an Edin Džeko double fired them to a 4-0 home win over Viktoria Plzeň 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 Barça who were hosting Bayern Munich later on Wednesday. Even if Barça beat the Germans and win their final group game against Plzeň, 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 Plzeň goalkeeper Jindřich Staněk 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 Džeko then put Inter in total command when he tapped home after Federico Dimarco had latched on to Nicolò Barella's excellent cross-field pass.

Plzeň, winless in this year's competition, offered little offensive threat and were sliced open again in the 66th minute as Džeko added to his tally when he swept in Lautaro Martínez'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," Džeko, who was also on target in the reverse fixture, told Nova Sport. "I have a relationship with Plzeň. 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 Staněk following a perfectly weighted through ball from Joaquín Correa.

"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 Plzeň captain Lukáš Hejda. "Džeko is an uncompromising goalscorer who has the know-how to score against us, while we really do not know how to defend (against) him."

(Reporting by Dhruv Munjal in Bengaluru; editing by Clare Fallon)

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