Ten-man Inter holds off Barca to reach the Champions League final
Surviving the first-half dismissal of midfielder Thiago Motta, Inter Milan reached the European Champions League final for the first time in 38 years by eliminating Barcelona in their semfinal matchup. Despite losing 1-0 to a late Gerard Pique-goal Wednesday night at the Nou Camp, Inter progressed 3-2 overall on aggregate score.
The Italians will face German side Bayern Munich in the final on May 22 at the Bernabeu Stadium in Madrid and will be bidding to win their third Champions League trophy. Inter has won the competiton twice previously in 1964 and 1965.
You can rehash the game with the play-by-play analysis below:
Jose Mourinho will be looking even more self-satisfied than usual when he arrives at Camp Nou with a 3-1 lead tucked under his arm Wednesday. The crowd will do its best to be as hospitable as Satan's armpit, but Barcelona still has those two goals to make up to go through to this year's Champions League final.
Inter might be without
I'll be here from
The teams are in, and there's a wee bit of tinkering to report. Gabriel Milito comes in for Puyol in Barca's back line, while Yaya Toure is preferred to Maxwell in an altered midfield. Busquets keeps his place for some reason. Inter look the same as last week, which hopefully means Wesley Sneijder isn't in danger of pulling up in the first five minutes.
Guardiola and Mourinho have spent the build-up to the game trading assurances of how utterly unflustered they are by this meeting, which will see one of them through to the final against Bayern Munich.
"We want to follow a dream," shrugged Mourinho. "But it's one thing to follow a dream and another to follow an obsession. For Barcelona it's an obsession."
"It's a game of football, not a magic night," Guardiola tossed back, "and we have to be ourselves. Inter doesn't matter, nor their great coach, nor their marvellous players. The only thing that matters is that we are ourselves."
None of us are fooled. This. Is. Huge.
"Look for Barca to come out strong and look for that opening goal as soon as the whistle blows," reckons Augusto Blacker. "If Mourinho's men can withstand what is sure to be a barrage of Barcelona attacks, they may just be able to pull off their most famous victory in 45 years." Now, if everyone could just email every couple of minutes, I'll put my feet up and take in the action.
"I am looking forward to settling in with you and a few beers for today's match," reports Jason Parker, whom I like to imagine opening the bottle with his teeth in an act of gratuitous machismo. "As one of the few non-Inter supporters who truly believed Inter could advance, I think that Inter should handle Barca with as much ease as one can at the Camp Nou. While everyone knows Barca as the greatest team anyone has ever seen, they have never been in this position and I think that they will be pressing to overcome their two-goal deficit and it will lead to an early Inter goal. My final scoreline 1-1." That's his two-cents worth. You?
Hold on a minute! Pandev's become mysteriously "injured," and Chivu will now start in a last-minute formation that is in absolutely no way whatsoever a reaction to Barca's heavier midfield. No no.
Of course we'll hail Mourinho as a genius if it works ....
There's a bit of afters as Motta has another go at Busquets as he leaves the field, but all eyes are on Mourinho, who's revelling in his role as pantomime dame.
"I would like to hear your thoughts regarding how Bayern matches up with Inter (who I anticipate getting through today)," says Joseph Voelkner. "Who do you like in a Bayern v. Inter final?" There's no doubt that Bayern have come through the easier side of the draw, but in their pomp, I like Bayern a lot. Olic, Schweinsteiger and Robben were fantastic to watch last night. But if Mourinho navigates Inter to the final from here, you have to fancy it to be their year.
Just as it looked like Barca might try just to pass Inter to death, Xavi slides the ball into Pique, who's being played onside by Muntari. The centre back dummies and cuts back to put the ball into an empty net.
Into injury time. We'll have four minutes worth.
GOA- NO! Bojan puts the ball into the back of the net but the referee had already blown for a handball against Yaya Toure!
Terrible decision, by the way -- Toure's hand was on his stomach and about two feet away from the ball when it was struck.
The final whistle's gone and Jose Mourinho is on the pitch saluting the away crowd, which upsets Valdes no end.
For 80 minutes, this was a disappointing match. Barcelona, at Camp Nou, is just not supposed to look that clueless. Especially against 10 men. It was like excitedly watching 2001: A Space Odyssey for the first time expecting a life-changing classic, only to find out that it's three plotless hours you'll never get back. Still, both had an ending to leave you scratching your head, bewildered, and the match had infinitely more incident.
Inter spent all evening defending, and it did an admirable job; Xavi and Messi struggled to make anything like the impression on the game that we'd hoped for, just as they had at San Siro last week. The debate over the second goal that never was will go on, but still, the holders are out, and over the two legs, it's hard to find too many reasons to argue that it's an unfair result.
Inter versus Bayern isn't the final most would have picked or preferred at the beginning of the season, but it promises to be an interesting one nonetheless. Bayern showed a fluency yesterday that bodes well, though Inter will fancy it can match the Bavarians in midfield and get into their back line. Yet again Jose Mourinho will have to take centre stage, the poor retiring soul. We'll be covering the match live here on May 22nd.