Inter sting Barca; beat holders 3-1
Inter Milan produced a stunning performance to beat holders Barcelona 3-1 in the Champions League semifinal, first leg at the San Siro on Tuesday.
Goals from Wesley Sneijder, Maicon and Diego Milito extinguished Pedro’s opener for Barca and sent the Nerazzuri faithful into raptures ahead of next week’s second leg at the Camp Nou.
It was a tactical masterclass from Jose Mourinho as his team wiped out memories of the lessons Barca gave them in the group stages back in September and November.
Mourinho showed he wasn’t messing around before kick-off by picking an attacking line-up with three forwards plus playmaker Sneijder.
It was them who created the first clear-cut chance in the first 18 minutes as Samuel Eto’o curled a left-footer from outside the area that Victor Valdes failed to hold but Diego Milito fired the rebound straight across the face of goal.
Inter, who were looking confident fell behind a minute later through some dreadful defending.
Former Inter left-back Maxwell ran far too easily down the left, reaching the byline where he pulled the ball back and with Inter’s defenders preoccupied by Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the centre, Pedro came in off the right flank to drill the ball home from 15 yards.
The hosts kept going about their task, though, and Sneijder slid a lovely pass into Milito in the inside left channel but again dragged his shot just past the far post.
Yet, on the half-hour mark, Inter got the equaliser they deserved as Maicon played Eto’o down the right, he pulled the ball back into the middle and Milito took it off Goran Pandev’s foot but then fed it on to the unmarked Sneijder at the back post for a right-footed finish inside Valdes’s near upright.
In that first-half, Barca had enjoyed almost 65 percent of the possession, but Inter showed that their coach’s assertion — after having met in the group stages— that one can play well without the ball, certainly rang true.
Mourinho had also said before kick-off that Barca were as good as they were back then but that Inter were much improved and their display bore that out.
Inter’s first half had been impressive but started the second at a canter with Pandev shedding off three players in midfield and then playing Milito behind the backline, the Argentine pulled the ball back for the charging Maicon to prod home his second goal in successive games, just three minutes in.
Messi finally woke up and got his first shot off on 53 minutes but Julio Cesar parried and later, blocked a close-range Sergio Busquets’ header from a corner.
But Barca could not handle Inter’s attacking flair. In the 61 minute, Eto’o crossed from the right and Sneijder’s poor header bounced up for Milito, arriving at the back post, to nod home. Julio Cesar stood tall again 11 minutes from time as he punched away a crisp Messi free-kick.
Barca took total possession of the ball in the closing stages and Inter survived one scramble in the box as Lucio blocked Gerard Pique's prod from a tight angle on the line.
Jose finds time to quarrel despite win
Inter coach Jose Mourinho still found reasons to moan despite being on the verge of yet another extraordinary triumph after his side flattened Barcelona on Tuesday.
Barca’s midfielder Xavi complained about the referee at fulltime. He was also involved in a spat with Mourinho. The latter inferred that the holders were bad losers.
“It's always difficult to lose for those who aren’t used to losing. I’m like that too. It’s the characteristic of a team which always wins,” a bristling Mourinho told the media when asked what had happened in the tunnel.
“I can never have a problem with Xavi because I adore him. He's one of best in the world,” he added.