Inter Milan ended Barcelona’s reign as European champions on Wednesday, but their semifinal victory was dismissed as an ugly bodyblow to the soul of the ‘beautiful game’.
“Inter stayed at the back and defended and the result is sad for the fans and the team,” said Barca midfielder Yaya Toure, one of the loudest critics of the dogged, unfussy Italian style.
Despite boasting the talents of Lionel Messi, Barca failed to break down an Italian wall of defiance, made even more resolute by the red-card handed out to Thiago Motta.
Inter Milan, whose last European title was in 1965 and whose last appearance in the final was in 1972, were inspired by coach Jose Mourinho and their 1-0 defeat on Wednesday was not enough to cancel out their 3-1 advantage from the first leg of their semifinal. Their reward is a May 22 final against Bayern Munich in Madrid.
“When a team defends like Inter you have to open up the pitch and try to take advantage of the middle, but we were not able to link-up well and one-against-one it always led to a foul,” said Guardiola.
“When nine players defend it is difficult to overcome them, (Diego) Milito and (Samuel) Eto’o played almost like full-backs, but whoever wins always has reason and you have to give it to them.”
Mourinho, who sprinted onto the pitch at the final whistle to absorb the praise of the small contingent of Inter fans squeezed into a ground dominated by 90,000 Barca supporters, defended his tactics.
“The game started badly for us because we had to play (Cristian) Chivu ahead of (Goran) Pandev (who picked up a knock in the warm-up) and we are used to having three forwards in Europe,” he said.
“It meant we had to be more defensive. It was an exceptional display and the best defeat of my life, although the players deserved a draw because their defending was spectacular.”