Straight from the dark heart of Italy
Three weeks ago Julio Cesar walked home from the San Siro after his fumble in the Champions League Last-16 first leg against Bayern Munich enabled Mario Gomez to score the only goal of the game in the dying moments.
In truth he only faced a brief stroll down the road to reach his apartment complex, so last night - after another blunder - the Brazilian must have felt like having an ‘Into the Wind’ moment and just hitting the highway until he ran out of road.
Samuel Eto’o had put the Nerazzurri back on level aggregate terms early on in the Allianz Arena when JC (not the other miracle maker) failed to hold onto an Arjen Robben effort and allowed Gomez to hook the ball home.
From then on all he could do was pray his team-mates could hoist him out of the hole of his own making so he could banish every goalkeeper’s reoccurring nightmare: the routine shot that turns into the squirming eel.
Fortunately, the much-derided Goran Pandev produced a dream finish and Julio Cesar could get on the bus again.
The feeling was that if Leonardo’s men could get it right at the back then they could overturn the one-goal deficit considering the attacking potential available in Eto’o, Welsey Sneijder and as it turned out, Pandev.
All three found the net, with the indomitable Eto’o setting up two, and on this evidence the team are taking on a similar personality to Leonardo’s AC Milan of last season - albeit with a few more potent players going forward.
There was little fun watching Jose Mourinho’s well-drilled side sucking the life out of European matches last year on their way to winning the competition, but they very rarely lived as dangerously as they did last night, with their defence evidently unsure of how to deal with the threat of Robben, Franck Ribery and Gomez not to mention the late runs of Thomas Mueller into the area.
Not for the first time in Europe, full-backs Cristian Chivu and Douglas Maicon looked particularly vulnerable and, had it not been for Julio Cesar’s quick reflexes and Lucio’s warrior-like defending, the Bundesliga side could have been out of sight before the break.
Mou’s men may have rarely, if ever, found themselves in a position where they needed to go on all out attack over 45 minutes to save their skins – it may have been nervy at times, but at least they would had everyone behind the ball generally protecting an advantage of some kind.
There is no doubt Leo got his tactics wrong for around an hour, leaving Sneijder out on the left where he spent more time tracking Philipp Lahm than looking to create openings for Eto’o.
The game turned the moment the Dutch wiz switched back into the middle, replacing the labouring Dejan Stankovic - with Coutinho coming on to fill the role on the left, Pandev moving out to the right and Eto’o free to run the defence ragged through the middle or out wide if he wished.
It also provided an outlet for the previously ineffectual Thaigo Motta and Esteban Cambiasso, who in their defence have both not long returned from injury and were hastily drafted in after Javier Zanetti succumbed to an iffy tummy.
What this side has in common with that special one of last year is that they have rallied around their new coach in a manner they never did during Rafa Benitez's brief reign.
Even after winning the World Club Cup there was no mass celebration and Marco Materazzi didn't ever leap on the Spaniard in the manner he did with Leonardo at the final whistle last night - or Mourinho several times last season.
In truth, Bayern are not a great side and once the game entered the crucial latter stages with things still in the balance they looked very ordinary, which handed Inter the impetuous to take control.
It was a night of the heart and a stirring moment at the final whistle when Yuto Nagatomo danced around the stadium wrapped in a Japan flag ensuring his homeland were not walking alone.
Italy are still represented in the competition and Inter will not be dethroned as champions of Europe that easily.
Now, it has to be Real Madrid in the quarter-finals - it is as if everyone is willing the return of the Special One for another very special evening.
Playing snijder, who is by a distance the best Dutch player and I think the best player in the serie A, on the left instead of at 10 is as close to heresy as you can come in football really. I imagined sneijder had. Big enough balls to play in the middle anyway.
Great game though!
It was one of the best comebacks in a long time. I fancied Inter to win before the game but at half time, I thought they were dead and buried.
Pandev didn't do much right all night(ala Brecia)but he kept going and was rewarded with a great finish.
The main man again, however, was the guy who is definately the world's best centre forward this season: Samuel Eto'o. It was another immense showing from him. Every time I've seen him this season he's been great.
With a tricky Bayern team out of the way, Inter can certainly win this trophy again.
The only squad better than their's is Barcelona. Any of the others can be beaten. Although, Lucio will be a loss for the next game, with Samuel still out.
Let's hope they don't come up against a good attack with Chivu and Materazzi playing.
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