A 1-0 win against CSKA Moscow in Wednesday night’s Champions League quarter final first-leg was a good result for the Nerazzurri.
The Russians have proved themselves a difficult team to beat in the year’s competition, and have shown an ability to score goals – most notably getting three at Old Trafford against Manchester United. They played hard against Inter at the Giuseppe Meazza and did have their chances to score, and keeping them with a blank score sheet should be something that Jose Mourinho is very happy about.
Inter will be somewhat frustrated that their second-half performance did not yield more than the one goal that they scored, and it did take a great goal line clearance from Aleksei Berezutski to make sure that they were held to just the one. Inter kept possession of the ball very well and although the Russians did look dangerous at times, the Italian side – who did actually have an Italian playing in the shape of Marco Materazzi – looked fairly comfortable in the first half. The second half was when la Beneamata began to play with a bit more adventure, and they started to open up the CSKA defence and create some good opportunities for the strikers.
Mourinho had once again gone with the triad of Samuel Eto’o, Diego Milito and Goran Pandev in attack and they looked very much like the three top-class players that they are and – but for some good saves from Igor Akinfeev and the aforementioned clearance by Berezutski – could have won the game by more goals, although perhaps Javier Zanetti’s post-match claim of 10-0 was a little over the top.
CSKA on the other hand will feel that they have a real chance in next week’s second-leg, and even without Milos Krasic, who will miss the game through suspension, will want to attack Inter at home and see what they can achieve. Inter fans should be happy with the win after their sides poor showing against Roma last weekend because the team came out looking positive and controlled, rather than downhearted after such an important loss. The main worry at the moment will be the fitness of Wesley Sneijder, a player that has become vital to the side since his move to Italy, and he must surely be rested on the weekend against Bologna to make certain he is fit next week.
It was an encouraging performance that once again suggests Inter are beginning to understand what European football is all about, but given the changeability of their recent form, the Nerazzurri could well find themselves resoundingly thrashed in Moscow next week. Perhaps the most important question that Mourinho needs to ask himself now is whether he wants another Scudetto or the Champions League more. League form seems to be a thing of the past in the blue and black half of Milan whilst European form is building, but there will be either Barcelona or Arsenal to face should they make the semi-finals, and the recent history against either team is not favourable to the Italians.
It looks like it will be very difficult to win both competitions, and due to recent events, the game against Bologna on Saturday will be just as important as the game against CSKA next week. Being in with a chance of winning three competitions (including the Coppa Italia) at this end of the season is not something to complain about, but will Inter fans understand if the team lose lo Scudetto to try and win the Champions League and ultimately fail? It seems, ironically, that the stress of winning may well outweigh the stress of the relegation battle.
With Mourinho’s comments this week regarding Italian football, it would seem that he has put himself on the market for a move as soon as possible. He needs at least one success this season to make sure that his time in Milan is not characterized as Inter’s slip from the best team by a distance to the second best team, whilst spending a large amount of money on players. This, Jose, is your real test. You may begin.