Straight from the dark heart of Italy
“It is not me; it is us,” claimed the very Special One – and how right Jose Mourinho was in lauding his men at the end of a pulsating, drama-filled evening in the Nou Camp.
However, he couldn’t resist stealing the photo opportunity at the final whistle when he gave his conqueror salute to the away fans high in the gods, well aware that the Barcelona players were at his neck snarling the last breath of the vanquished.
NEWS Ten-man Inter reach final
It took water-sprinklers to get Mou’s players off a pitch they had already soaked with blood and sweat. They were down to 10 men for more than an hour after Thiago Motta's red card but they had been outnumbered and exposed for a long time beforehand.
A hostile atmosphere, constant noise and exploding firecrackers outside the team hotel the night before – it was back to the good old days of the 1970s and nightmare European Cup trips. And on foreign fields the locals can be quite sensitive when someone strokes their face, as Sergio Busquets can no doubt explain.
The Barcelona players had promised to play out of their skins, not jump out of them at the slightest contact, but being decimated so early on did little to change Inter's game-plan – which was efficiently designed to ensure that the home side created very little danger in and around the area.
FEATURE Master planner Mourinho ready to silence the Nou Camp
Inter condensed the play into the centre of the pitch, thanks in part to the late introduction of Christian Chivu for Goran Pandev. The Macedonian's muscle problem had been well-documented by Mourinho in the days leading up to the match, but it wasn't a massive surprise that it should “flare up” during the warm-up, after the Barça team-sheet had been handed in.
With Samuel Eto’o dropping back to cover the right flank and Chivu closing up the left, the balance was perfect for Wesley Sneijder and Motta to remain tucked in leaving Esteban Cambiasso to patrol the area just ahead of the backline where Leo Messi was waiting to wind up for those darting runs into the penalty-box.
So when Motta finally left the pitch (with a few choice words for one and all and a proper little nip at Busquets), all Cambiasso had to do was step out five metres or so – and of course double his work-rate. And as for expending every drop of energy, let us not forget the efforts of Diego Milito in chasing every pass – no matter how misplaced it was.
All this running and concentrating on opponents who are marvelled at for their quick movement and interchanging of positions is easier said than done but in reality Inter never looked under pressure – it was catenaccio without an Italian in sight and with little of the darker elements of the art.
Lucio and Walter Samuel were hardly drawn out of their fortress in the heart of the defence – and when they were their challenges were crisp and clean – while it is difficult to recall a time when Douglas Maicon or the peerless Javier Zanetti allowed an opponent to get to the by-line.
Julio Cesar was beaten once but followed up his first-leg heroics with another sterling performance, although Ivan Cordoba must have had flashbacks to 2003 – when he failed to close down Andriy Shevchenko for the decisive goal in the derby – when this time Gerard Pique turned inside his despairing challenge.
GALLERY Action and interest from the game
All over the pitch there were performances that merited a place in Madrid. For many it may well be an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and as the contest wore on it was a prospect they seemed determined not to pass up.
But how could they fail when their coach was frequently almost encroaching onto the pitch to man the barricades? It was one of those nights where everyone was special.
Around 2,000 fans welcomed the weary warriors back home at 2.30am, and it seemed as if the majority of the Nerazzurri half of the city had taken over the cafes first thing in the morning - making it an extraordinarily festive start to the day in stuffy old Milan.
More from Serie Aaaaargh!
Thank God! I'm so sick of hearing about Barcelona, no one with the exception of Jonathan Wilson acknowledges that the 2005 change in the Off-Side rule is the real reason for Barcelona's recent triumphs the last 3 to 4 years... Mourinho is a true coach's coach, his dismantling of Barcelona (Game 1) is historic and will be talked about for years.
Great to see an Italian team in the final after the last few years of poor displays. The passing and attack of Inter was shocking, to say the least. But the defending was as good as I've ever seen. Motta can't really have too much to complain about I suppose as he was already on a yellow and should have kept his arm down. As for that clown Busquets, hopefully he'll be banned for a few games too.
The final is there for Inter to take now. I hope they attack Bayern as their defence is rubbish and Inter's 4 forwards could have a field day against the likes of Van Buyten. Bayern's forwards will also be up against a far better set of defenders than they have met so far so it all points to an Inter win. They are stronger in every area of the pitch.
Barca had plenty of chances but for all the hype they were about as much good in front of goal as this lot:
What do you make of the Paddy Power video? Funny or naughty?
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