Superior Inter deserving of its win
Sometimes the best tactics can be the simplest. After all the talk about pupils overcoming masters, of the wily veteran against the protégé he developed over three years at Barcelona, there was no sense here that
Put in its simplest terms, Bayern has two glaring flaws: going forward it is over-reliant on
Despite all the pregame speculation, Mourinho's selection ended up being predictable, with
To that extent, the selection failed, but Mourinho's gamble had been that it wouldn't matter. There had been some suggestion that
As in the Camp Nou in the second leg of the semifinal, Inter had by far the lesser share of possession (only 33 per cent, although that is more than twice as much as it had against Barcelona), but its organization was again excellent, and this time it retained a penetrative threat on the break. "It was a provocation in a football sense when before the match [Van Gaal] said Inter is a defensive team, not playing with the same attacking spirit, and I wanted to play with counters," Mourinho said. He responded with the football of the fencer, partying and parrying and parrying and riposting only when it was safe to do so. "It's not new," Van Gaal said. "If you watch Inter every weekend, and you see also Bayern, and you can also see the stats of the Champions League. It's a choice of the playing style."
The opening goal could hardly have been more straightforward, and it came from a calculated exploitation of a Bayern weakness. Demichelis is a converted midfielder, and he never betrays his roots more than when wobbling under a high ball. There was something classy in the simplicity of the goal, as
Once ahead, Inter could settle back, allow Bayern to have the ball, and wait to pick them off on the break. Sneijder and Pandev ought to have doubled Inter's lead after being laid in by the excellent Milito, but in the end it was the Argentine himself who made the game safe with 20 minutes remaining, accepting
The final shot count showed Bayern had 21 efforts to Inter's 11, but all that tells us is how deceptive statistics can be. Once Inter had taken the lead, there was never any sense it would squander it, and many of the shots that Bayern had were speculative and from distance. Notably at halftime, the shot count was only 10-7 in Inter's favour; Bayern's advantage in that regard came largely because Inter allowed it to dominate. "With Bayern attacking with so many players it was easier for us to control the middle of the pitch," Mourinho said.
However, for Bayern only Robben offered real menace, and it was testament to how well Inter closed down his teammates -- and perhaps also to the lack of finesse and imagination of
The sense of a repeating pattern is also a result of Inter's willingness to defend deep. "We are a very compact team; we have little distance between the players, and we managed to play and win with counters, and this is typical for our team," Mourinho said. When Bayern attacked, the defense tended to be set, ready to force it into predictable channels; Inter, by contrast, could attack against a retreating defense, which was precisely how Milito was able to work the opening for the second goal against Van Buyten. "You must be in top shape to beat a team like Inter and today we were not in top shape," Van Gaal said. "To attack is harder than to defend, and we had to attack in a reduced space. Some German teams also do this, but Inter are rather better and have players who can make the difference."
There was nothing complicated about Inter's win, nothing to signal Mourinho's tactical genius. That showed itself in the quarterfinal against Chelsea and in the semifinal against Barcelona; here it was enough simply to play its usual game. Recognizing that, of course, is itself part of Mourinho's talent.