Milito 3, Cambiasso 55
Jose Mourinho got the reunion he wanted – after Inter beat Chelsea 2-1 at a packed San Siro. The build up to the game had felt like the typical promotional fan fare you see when two of the world’s best boxers are promoting their up and coming fight. In the blue corner Jose Mourinho, in the white corner Carlo Ancelotti. Both managers seemed happy to admit that the game would take 180 minutes to decide a clear winner, and considering today’s evidence, they were right. Chelsea has the advantage to have finished the first leg with the all important away goal, which could become crucial in three weeks time.
The game started with a bang, much like the Nerazzurri’s eternal nemesis Milan’s match with another English side Manchester United last week at this very stadium. Diego Milito made light work of John Terry to give Inter the lead within three minutes. Mourinho still perched on his seat gave a small nod of appraisal whilst showing a face that suggested his team had conceded.
From here, the West Londoners, made an assault on the Inter goal: the Blues brought out wave after wave of attacks, confirming yet again, how times and fortunes have changed for both clubs. Inter playing at home were being pinned back in their own half for most of the first period. Didier Drogba hit a post from a free kick and it was looking like it would only be a matter of time before he would get the equaliser for the Pensioners. Saloman Kalou was making dangerous deft runs on the wide left also, but Inter were defending well.
The Nerazzurri had rarely had to work so hard to keep a lead, and if not for the noise of the fans one could believe that they were the away. Chelsea looked comfortable on the ball, and the San Siro atmosphere was not affecting them one bit.
When Kalou hit the equaliser just five minutes after the interval after a fine run from Frank Lampard there seemed only one result. Chelsea would go on and grabs another goal and win in Italy, making it thus virtually impossible for Inter to qualify. Unfortunately for Chelsea, Inter was not reading the script and still smelling the blood. In fact, there was something else about this game: just a few minutes later Esteban Cambiasso unleashed an unstoppable drive that left Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech standing and Inter was back in the lead. Still Chelsea came close on a number of occasions before Inter tied up the game.
There are many stories to come out of this win. The forever running saga that the Premier League is better than Serie A – for instance. A statement that had been believed as far back as 2007, even though Italy were World Cup champions and Milan were European Cup holders. For the British, Italy is the league they love to hate. Mr Mourinho, who for some has done more damage to Serie A’s reputation than harness, it has at least put a block on bragging claims. If a league is to be decided on how strong it is by a teams performance in Europe then let tonight be a reminder that Serie A is not dead and buried yet.
Above all Inter’s display tonight, the way they worked for one another the one they chased down the ball and defended has to be applauded. If the Nerazzurri can deny Chelsea a goal in the second leg Inter will be through to the quarter finals. A massive achievement given Chelsea’s recent record in the Champions League. Its safe to say that Mourinho now has his side, a side that are willing to risk all for the cause of the club. Effectively the game has only reached half time and there will be all to play for and defend against in the second leg.