He did it. Just as he’d always claimed he would. Mourinho watched as his superb Inter side, inspired by a brilliant Wesley Sneijder and a classy finish from Eto’o, dismantled Chelsea at Stamford Bridge to progress to the next stage with an emphatic 3-1 aggregate.
As expected Jose Mourinho received much of the pre-match attention with an army of photographers hovering around him, prior to the start of the encounter. The game started off in cagey fashion, with neither team settling in during the first few minutes – a marked contrast from the first leg, considering it needed only 3 minutes for Milito to turn that night alive. Inter survived an early shout for penalty, which replays would show was the right decision as Malouda had clattered into the Italian club’s defense before going down. Michael Ballack’s right footed long-range shot just after 10 minutes, went just wide off the Inter goal-post but barely threatened Cesar in the big scheme of things. Inter looked happy to play a counter-attacking strategy, with Chelsea naturally pressing forward with greater urgency trying to erase the first leg disadvantage.
Drogba and Lucio put paid to any suggestion of goodwill between the two teams, by going head-to-head in a confrontation after Malouda was inadvertently kicked on the brow with a high-footed challenge. Inter’s defense was threatened when Malouda headed the ball right in front of Drogba whose attempt at goal was thwarted by a valiant Maicon block just after the first quarter of regulation time. Eto’o missed a glorious chance to go ahead after half-an-hour when he misjudged a cross in from a rampaging Maicon, and could only head into the ground. Maicon was fantastic down the right flank with most of Inter’s attacks coming from that region, while Chelsea’s reliance on Malouda in the central midfield reduced their characteristic flair on the left flank.
Chelsea enjoyed greater possession in a continuation of the first-leg, but it was Inter that had the greater potency going forward and showed the greater tactical superiority in the first half. Towards the end of the first half Chelsea seemed to develop a dose of venom in theirattack; Samuel made a fantastic block to deny a threatening Malouda on the turn of forty minutes, and Anelka then fluffed a golden opportunity to make the best of a superb pass from Drogba. Inter’s defense showed the effects of stress when Samuel wrapped his arms around Drogba and literally hugged the Ivorian down to the ground. Lampard fluffed an opportunity under pressure from Samuel at the interval, but Chelsea had little else to cheer about.
The second half started with Motta getting yellow-carded, who was lucky to avoid conceding a penalty for a first-half tussle on Ivanovic. Soon enough Eto’o proved to be shoddy enough again in attack, unable to make up his mind. Chelsea’s best chance of the game came on 50 minutes, off a super Malouda shot that forced a grand save from Cesar. Chelsea’s nerves began to show at the hour mark as Malouda saw yellow for a challenge from the rear and Drogba received a yellow for a clumsy challenge.
A moment of defensive brilliance from Zhirkov denied an incisive Pandev a glorious chance off a superbly threaded pass from Sneijder. Sensing a problem, Ancelotti took off the hapless Ballack for Joe Cole – a move that would prove to have no impact on the game. Inter looked increasingly threatening as Thiago Motta missed a chance off a free header getting Mourinho to cover his head in frsutration.
Saloman Kalou was brought on and made an immediate impact with a cross from inside the box. But Chelsea’s hopes of progression would soon come to an end when Samuel Eto provided a super finish from a Sneijder pass yet again. Mourinho jumped up in joy and pumped his fists at the touchline before composing himself and preparing for an early exit. Just when it looked like Chelsea’s night couldn’t have gotten worse, Drogba got red-carded for a stamp on Thiago Motta brought on by Motta tussling with the striker in the box.
It was a surprising show of firmness from the referee Stark, after having rejected two of Chelsea’s penalty claims. On the night however, Chelsea had nobody to blame but themselves. A superb Inter side, under The Special One, thoroughly deserved their win at The Bridge.
TheHardTackle’s PLAYER OF THE MATCH
Wesley Sneijder (Inter Milan)
Sneijder was fabulous, exerting a great degree of control over the proceedings. Inter could’ve scored many more goals had its strikers done justice to the genius of this man. None of Chelsea players were in the same league
TheHardTackle’s REFEREE REPORT CARD
Name : Stark
Grade : C- (barely satisfactory)
Interfered with the smooth progress of the game on several ocassions, and denied Chelsea two valid penalty shouts. Was able to exert only minimal control over the players’, and was not uniform in the decisions he handed out.
CHELSEA FC 0-1 INTER MILAN (Agg. 1-3)
Venue: Stamford Bridge
Chelsea Line-up: Ross Turnbull, Branislav Ivanovic, John Terry, Rodrigo da Costa Alex, Frank Lampard, John Obi Mikel, Michael Ballack (Joe Cole, 62′), Florent Malouda, Yuri Zhirkov (Salomon Kalou, 74′), Didier Drogba, Nicolas Anelka
Manager: Carlo Ancelotti
Cautions: Terry, Alex, Malouda
Inter Line-up: Julio Cesar, Zanetti, Maicon, Samuel, Motta (Materazzi, 90′), Sneijder (Mariaga, 85′), Cambiasso, Eto’o, Milito, Pandev (Stankovic, 75′)
Manager: Jose Mourinho
Cautions: Cesar, Lucio, Motta, Eto’o
Scorers: Eto’o (79′)