Say it isn't so! Wasn't it Arsenal playing Chelsea a few weeks ago as they swamped a defense that relied on a great bag of tricks and experience to keep the Gunners at bay? Today, Chelsea was forced to play Arsenal in passing futility as they tried their darndest to breech a dour and doughty Inter defense.
Walter Samuel and Lucio did a number on Drogba and Lampard. Watching Samuel crowd out Drogba and then with a few nifty and subtle body grabs throw him off position during corners and crosses was to watch a clinic in smart football tactics.
Meanwhile Lucio pushed himself to the limits keeping the Chelsea attack which predictably came down the middle. Ancelotti did not even bother introducing Joe Cole, probably his single biggest mistake. The wily midfielder would have widened the game while the brain trust of Lampard and Ballack did their utmost to spurn those pretensions while Malouda was on the field. He was mostly an afterthought in the first half.
Instead it was Inter operating on the Chelsea precept of attacking efficiency getting far fewer chances but making it count. Diego Milito's quickfire 3" minute strike came from an attack sweeping to the left with Terry being caught the wrong way as the Argentinian striker turned to his stronger right side and fired the ball centimeters away from the outstretched fingers of Petr Cech.
Chelsea's response was very strong and Drogba was distinctly unlucky as his free kick caught the underside of the crossbar after beating Julio Cesar. A cracking shot by Ballack was just about fended away. Chelsea dominated possession with Inter snatching a few moments. Samuel Eto'o had a golden chance of putting Inter two up but he made a hash of a fine pass with just Cech to beat.
Chelsea tested Julio Cesar with a few long rangers hoping to catch the Brazilian recovering from a car crash suffered this Monday, off guard. Mourinho took a gamble with his start and it became a topic of debate when he completely fluffed Solomon Kalou's testing shot for the equalizer soon after the resumption of the second half.
However Inter proved resilient and went ahead from Esteban Cambiasso's fiercely angled half volley which beat Petr Cech all ends up. That was in the 55th minute. For the next 35 minutes or more Chelsea virtually camped in the Inter half to no avail except for a moment when Lampard slid in with the ball but an alert Cesar atoned for his earlier mistake, scrambling the ball out.
Still as they say, Chelsea got that all important away goal. Ancelotti can hold that as a morsel of good cheer to take back home. However in the coaching department Mourinho came out tops. In looking more like Chelsea than Chelsea he continues to perfect his legacy. Except it is at the San Siro.