BARCELONA - Inter Milan battled for more
than an hour with 10 men to book their place in next month's
Champions League final at the expense of holders Barcelona on a
triumphant night for the Italian side's coach Jose Mourinho.
The Spanish holders won the semi-final second leg 1-0 but
Inter went through 3-2 on aggregate after a pulsating encounter
at Barca's Nou Camp stadium to reach their first final of
Europe's elite club competition since 1972.
They will play Bayern Munich in the final at Real Madrid's
Bernabeu stadium on May 22.
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Mourinho, a former assistant coach at Barca, raced onto the
pitch at the final whistle, his wild eyes fixed on the small
section of triumphant Inter fans as he pointed a celebratory
finger to the sky.
He clashed with Barca goalkeeper Victor Valdes as a hail of
objects rained down from the stands before he returned to the
embrace of his ecstatic players.
"It's an incredible joy, I've won the Champions League (with
Porto in 2004) but I must say today was better than winning the
Champions League," Mourinho told Rai TV.
After losing last week's semi-final first leg in Milan 3-1,
Barca coach Pep Guardiola fielded an ultra-attacking formation
and with the home fans roaring their support the visitors'
defence came under immediate pressure.
For all their early possession Barca were struggling to
create chances and a Pedro volley in the 22nd minute that
flashed narrowly wide was their first real effort on goal.
Tempers boiled over five minutes later when Inter midfielder
Thiago Motta flung out an arm in a challenge with Sergio
Busquets which sent the Barca player tumbling to the turf
clutching his face.
Former Barca player Motta, who had already been booked, was
sent off, sparking a melee in which he grabbed Busquets by the
back of the neck before being led away.
The dismissal was the cue for a magnificent rearguard action
from Inter who dealt with almost everything the fearsome Barca
attack could throw at them.
Champions League top scorer Lionel Messi curled a shot that
Julio Cesar acrobatically tipped around the post before a
thunderous Zlatan Ibrahimovic free-kick flashed just wide.
As the clock ticked down in the second half, substitute
Bojan Krkic missed a sitter of a header but a minute later
centre back Gerard Pique, moved by coach Guardiola to a
last-ditch striking role, made amends with a superbly taken goal
in the 84th minute that gave Barca hope.
The Spain international controlled the ball in the penalty
and showed a striker's touch to spin away from Cesar and the
Inter defenders and slot into an empty net.
With the noise levels rising ever higher, Barca pressed for
the goal that would send them through and had an effort from
Krkic at the death disallowed when Yaya Toure was adjudged to
have handled the ball in the build-up.
"We defended very well, very compact, and we fought on every
metre," Inter midfielder Wesley Sneijder, who moved to Inter
from Real Madrid before the start of this season, said in a
"We gave everything, that's what we said to each other
before the game, and we did it and now we go to Madrid.
"You always have a tactic to destroy the opponent. We did it
in Milan and tonight as well."
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