Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Inter push away Barca

Internazional Milano defeated FC Barcelona today in the second leg of the Champions League semi-final, the final score 1-0 for Barca at Camp Nou. The previous leg was won by Inter at the San Siro by the score of 3-1. Inter win 3-2 on aggregate and are through to the final where they will face Bayern Munich.

Inter were down to 10 men (thanks to Thiago Motta) just before the end of the first half, yet were able to retain aggregate win. Players such as Cristian Chivu, Diego Milito, Sneijder, and others did much for Inter in this match. Pique scored a great goal in the 84th minute to give Barcelona a bit of hope in sight. Barca even scored in stoppage time thanks to Bojan but because of a handball by a Barcelona player, it did not count. Report:
The Italian champions survived Thiago Motta's early red card and Gerard Piqué's late goal to reach a first final since 1972.

 Barcelona dethroned by resilient Inter

An immense display of intelligent defending and sheer determination took FC Internazionale Milano into the European Champion Clubs' Cup final for the first time since 1972 and ended FC Barcelona's hopes of becoming the first team to defend the UEFA Champions League.

Once again José Mourinho's tactics proved decisive, Inter overcoming the loss of Goran Pandev minutes before kick-off plus the dismissal of former Barcelona midfielder Thiago Motta after 28 minutes and even a fine 84th-minute goal from Gerard Piqué. That late strike was the only moment when it looked as if Inter, who gave everything to protect their 3-1 first-leg lead, were not going to thwart the reigning European and world champions at every turn as they look to win the trophy for the third time.

The atmosphere had been febrile for an hour before kick-off, although amid the tension there were warm embraces between Xavi Hernàndez, Samuel Eto'o and Víctor Valdés. There was no let-up in the intensity on the pitch, however, although Inter had been forced into an emergency reshuffle even before Motta's red card. Pandev broke down in the warm-up and Mourinho opted for Cristian Chivu as his replacement.

Inter's counterattacking tactics meant that there were often nine white shirts behind the ball while the European champions tested their version of safe-breaking skills. Try as they might it was impossible to unpick the Italian champions although Pedro Rodríguez darted in front of Motta and Maicon to prod Daniel Alves' cross narrowly wide. Inter's response was instant. An excellent combination between Diego Milito and Wesley Sneijder down the right sucked Seydou Keita, an experimental left-back, towards the danger and so suddenly that Eto'o was alone with the ball in sight of goal. Only the timely arrivals of Gabriel Milito and Pedro spared Barcelona.

Then came five minutes that made Inter's task even harder. Motta had already been booked but his use of an outstretched hand on the face of Sergio Busquets brought him a straight red card in the 28th minute. As Inter looked to reorganise yet again, it was another Brazilian who came to their rescue. Yaya Touré released Lionel Messi and the competition's leading scorer bent in a vicious drive which Júlio César finger-tipped round the post.

Even though it needed an immense diving block by Samuel to prevent Zlatan Ibrahimović getting off shot just before the break, Inter were impressive. Diego Milito and Sneijder worked tirelessly to win possession and always stretched the home side when they had the ball. The degree to which Inter remained largely untroubled was shown as Guardiola first replaced Ibrahimović with Bojan Krkić, then urged Piqué to push up as an auxiliary centre-forward. Another striker, Jeffrén, followed as time began to ebb away and Inter's relentless blocking and retreating forced the normally slick Barcelona to shoot wastefully from distance.

Searching for inspiration Messi drifted left and curved in a cross which, at last, eluded Samuel only for Bojan to nudge a free header past the post. Then came the breakthrough. Xavi slipped a trademark pass to Piqué, he turned substitute Ivàn Córdoba and slid a shot into the open net. It proved too little too late for the holders, however, Inter holding out for the remaining six minutes plus added time to end their reign and set up a meeting with FC Bayern München on 22 May.

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