Inter Milan were down to ten men (we’ll come back to that later), fought manfully, defended for their lives with striker Samuel Et’oo even playing at left back and ended up losers on the night but they beat the current European Champions Barcelona over two legs to book their place in this year’s Champions League final, where they will take on Bayern Munich for the biggest prize in European Football.
The match against Barcelona was touted as Jose Mourinho’s biggest challenge and he came up trumps again, as he did a week ago at Milan. Yeah they lost the match 1-0 but came out 3-2 winners in the tie and that’s as much down to the manager’s tactical brilliance as it was to the players. Walter Samuel, Lucio, Javier Zanetti, Maicon, Esteban Cambiasso et al put in stellar defensive purposes and stifled Barcelona so much that towards the end they had to resort to long balls and crosses in search of the elusive goal.
The match would’ve been a different affair altogether if it weren’t for the theatrics of Barca midfielder Sergio Busquets, whose dramatic antics after being touched on the face by Inter’s Thiago Motta (who was already on a yellow) and probably the crowd & Barca players’ reactions, conned/convinced the referee into showing a straight Red. Down to ten men with more than an hour to go, Inter downed gears and played as defensively as they could. Though that made the match less interesting, it offered an insight into how Barca would cope up with overtly defensive play – and the answer is: not good. Theyc ould only muster a total of 4-5 shots on-goal even though possession was 75% in their favour! Messi was subdued for the most part but the colossal-est disappointment of the night for me was Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who apart from changing his torn jersey, did little.
Hats off to the Inter side and now they must be favourites to win the big prize, come May 22nd. Of course, Bayern are no slouch and in Louis Van Gaal, possess a shrewd and experienced manager who might just manage to outwit Jose in the big match. We’ll all see in a little over three weeks’ time.