Barca’s has cause for grave concern: With half an hour to go and a brace of goals down, the Blaugrana imposed a stifling siege of the Inter goal but could make no headway against the stubborn defense put up by Mourinho’s men. Truly, the Special One has instilled steel missing in previous Inter squads.
Even while losing Maicon, the veteran line of Lucio, Samuel, and Zanetti battled on with Lucio making a crucial save to deny Pique. And when breached, Julio Cesar came up with some timely saves. Chelsea was similarly frustrated at Stamford Bridge and that might be what Barca will face at the Camp Nou.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s return to the Giuseppe Meazza was a rank failure. He was all flailing limbs and petulance. At the other end Samuel Eto’o playing against his former team formed the counterattacking thrust with Diego Milito and Wesley Sneijder which allowed Inter to come back. But the game belonged to Diego Milito who along with Sneijder has proved to be Mourinho’s most canny signings.
Milito might have been frustrated by his early misses and at Barca’s high line which trapped him a number of times but he was at hand to complete some good work by Eto’o down the right.
With minutes to go before the half, Eto’o sent the ball across the edge of Barca’s box which was intercepted by Milito with his back turned towards goal. With quick thinking and selflessness he swept it wide to an oncoming Wesley Sneijder who curled the ball past Victor Valdes.
Milito then set up the second goal as he raced down the right and then pulled the ball to Maicon whose composed finishing gave Inter the lead minutes after the resumption of the second half. With that goal Maicon continued Inter’s theme of redemption as earlier he failed to mark Maxwell as the Brazilian was allowed to run wide and drag his cross to Pedro for Barca’s only goal.
It was Milito who finished off Barca as Eto’o running down the right floated the ball across which led to Sneijder’s botched attempt at a header. Luckily the ball bounced straight to the Argentinian striker who looked distinctly offside to nod home. There was no reaction from the linesman and the Inter celebrations began.
Leo Messi was allowed some trademarks lateral cut and a few dangerous looks but by his stratospheric standards he was subdued. Some tight marking by Zanetti, Samuel, and Cambiasso kept him boxed. I also thought that Goran Pandev playing alongside Eto’o and Milito was one of the most peripatetic players tracking back ceaselessly to help the defense.
Barca might feel hard done by Milito’s offside goal and a possible penalty call when Dani Alves went down after Sneijder’s challenge late in the game. To add insult to injury, Alves got the yellow card for diving. And in what is deja vu, Carlos Puyol is out for the second leg picking up his second yellow card. Inter in the meanwhile will miss out on Dejan Stankovic’s services.