Milito 35, 70
BAYERN MUNICH 0
There are always moments that linger in the memory after a European Cup final. On Saturday night it was possible to pick from an array of incidents, but the one that caught the eye was the emotional embrace of Jose Mourinho and Inter captain Javier Zanetti. It seemed to last a lifetime. It was genuine. It was the hug that a father gives a son. This season, the players of the Nerazzurri had worked harder, faster and better than they had ever done before. The players, as a core unit, always had the quality, but they needed guidance, a leader of men to complete the puzzle. The embrace of Mourinho and Zanetti spoke volumes. Zanetti, knowing that his coach’s tactical brilliance had given him the most elite of trophies.
Inter started the match with an attacking line up of Samuel Eto’o , Goran Pandev and Diego Milito, although it soon became apparent that Eto’o would be sacrificed to a more holding midfield role. The Cameroonian reveled in his new task. Much of the first half at the Santiago Bernabeu contained many stop-start moments but Arjen Robben for Bayern Munich looked fresh and was the one outstanding player for the German champions. His darting runs and dashes through the middle of the field had the Inter back four on full alert in the early stages but his influence on the game would later fade. Munich created half chances early on, but lacked killer instinct. In the end, the night belonged to the excellent Diego Milito. The Inter forward who has been a revelation in Serie A this season would open the scoring, finishing well under pressure to put the ball past Munich goalkeeper Hans Jorg Butt. With just ten minutes remaining of the first half it was he who had the much desired killer instinct and more importantly killer timing and as he nestled the ball in the far corner. Mourinho celebrated duly by saluting the tifosi who had traveled the 1,500 miles to the centre of Spain to witness their team’s crowning moment. Inter lead the half time parade into the dressing room in the lead, 0-1
The first quarter hour of the second half was arguably the finest period of the match. With Munich having no option but to attack with the constant threat of a quick counter attack from Inter. Indeed the Nerazzurri were giving hard evidence that they could perform the counter attack with aplomb
The players that should have starred for Munich were seeing less and less of the ball in the decisive minutes. Bastian Schweinsteiger, Marc van Bommell and the young Thomas Muller seemed swept up by the occasion, whilst French play-maker Franck Ribery watched with stale emotion from the stands. Three minutes after stalwart Christian Chivu was substituted for Dejan Stankovic, Inter effectively sealed their name on the trophy with a second goal.
Winning goals can be seen as brilliant goals- perhaps the best goal of a club’s season, and absolutely the most important. But Diego Milito’s second goal was pure brilliance. Milito picked up the ball during an awe inspiring quick counter and turned Van Buyten inside out before expertly putting the ball past Butt. The last decade’s finest goal in a final was Zinedine Zidane’s volley in 2002- this was the next best. Not only did it seal the win, it was a goal that was born out of the streets where Milito used to play as a boy. Milito quite rightly celebrated. He could now smell victory and as Mourinho asked for calm it became clear that the knowledge of how cruel football can be is the very reason that he and Bayern coach Louis van Gaal have dedicated their lives to the game. The game of unpredictability.
However, the final twenty minutes were played out, and even though Munich had more of the ball, Inter were the team who looked most likely to add a third. By the 90th minute the tifosi were in raptures, most crying with joy. They were witnessing victory over the rest of Europe for the first time. It was the emergence of a new generation. When referee Howard Webb signaled the end of the match- it was the end of 45 years of waiting and Inter had finally reached the summit of European football. President Massimo Moratti was close to tears. After pumping millions into his club, he had, at last, hit the jackpot and his wide smile was another endearing image of the final. Bayern coach van Gaal, who won the trophy back in 1995 with the youngest of Ajax teams was gracious in defeat, commenting, ”Inter were quite rightly the better team”. His former pupil, Mourinho, paid tribute to the fans, saying, ”The Champions League is special, it is a dream for everybody, for Moratti, the club and the whole of our incredible family”.
In what is most definitely his final game in charge of Inter, Mourinho has given the players and fans of Internazionale a moment that far outweighs any disenchantment or unrest that he caused in the dressing room or indeed, in Serie A. Even Mario Balotelli, left out of the final and so disillusioned from the mentality that Mourinho had installed into his squad of players was cheering and jumping for joy. Inter have achieved the treble and Mourinho has now won the Champions League twice, with two different teams, becoming only the third man ever to do so. His impending move to Real Madrid may break even more records but there will be more broken hearts at the San Siro when he does leave. Whatever the future holds, nobody or anything can take this moment of victory away from Inter. The club that has been under the shadow of their eternal rivals Milan since the Rossoneri were crowned champions of Europe in 1969 are now champions themselves. After 45 years, with many years of ifs and buts- the European trophy is finally Inter’s, and it comes at a time when their rivals are on a downtrend. The city of Milan is now black and blue, it is now the Nerazzurri’s.
Ultimately though, the best team won this season’s Champions League- of that there can be no question. The champions of Europe are from Serie A- the champions of Europe are Inter.