Norwich City. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0
Inter win 2-0 on aggregate
THE odyssey is over, but it ended as it began - with Norwich reminding the rest of Europe that when they are coached and coaxed properly, English footballers can still play the game the way it was meant to be played.
The task of retrieving their 1-0 deficit from the first leg proved to be beyond a half- strength team, but East Anglia's finest made their exit from the Uefa Cup with heads held high, and the appreciation of the San Siro ringing in their ears.
Elimination came as a disappointment, if not a total surprise, to Mike Walker and his players, but there was satisfaction, too, in the way their first venture into European competition came to an end.
Dennis Bergkamp's 88th- minute winner condemned them to home and away defeat, but they went out with honour, taking the game to their more celebrated opponents and weaving the pleasing passing patterns which have won them new friends from Manchester to Milan.
Indeed, one of the Internazionale coach Osvaldo Bagnoli's backroom staff declared: 'Norwich are one of the best teams to have come here in the last 10 years and that includes Milan, Real Madrid and teams like that.'
'That is a marvellous compliment,' Walker said. 'We didn't set out as flag-bearers for English football but I'm part of the business and I don't like people knocking our game.'
But Walker added: 'It's a bittersweet night for me. I'm not too ashamed to admit I was close to tears at the end. I was really pleased with the performance considering we had so many players out. But it's so disappointing to have played so well and lost. It's a bitter pill to swallow but hopefully it will make us better players.'
Had Norwich's finishing matched the precision of their approach work, it would be Walker's homespun team, not Inter's millionaires, taking their place in next Tuesday's quarter-final draw. Unfortunately, their composure deserted them where they needed it most - in front of goal.
Norwich did most of the pressing, but that was always going to be the way of it. The Italians are the best in the world when it comes to defending a lead, and while their picket line was infiltrated time and again, the sweeper system served them so well that Walter Zenga was not required to make a save of any consequence.
Bryan Gunn, on the other hand, further enhanced his burgeoning reputation by denying Francesco Dell'Anno and Ruben Sosa. Scotland's goalkeeper was fortunate not to concede a penalty when Bergkamp took a theatrical tumble over his arm, but 2-0 would have been harsh. A draw would have been a more equitable result.
The omens had not been good. Deprived of Ian Butterworth, Ian Culverhouse and Ian Crook, all suspended, the last thing Norwich needed was to lose a fourth important player, John Polston, who succumbed to an ankle injury on the eve of the game. Walker accepted the slings and arrows without fuss, and promoted yet another home-grown talent, Robert Ullathorne, in Polston's place.
Six of the Norwich team were products of a youth scheme, Inter's star-studded cast was assembled for a cool pounds 40m, yet it was the have-nots who made the running. Mark Bowen, a capable understudy for Culverhouse as sweeper, initiated a couple of penetrative attacks which saw Chris Sutton and Efan Ekoku shoot wide. That was to be the way of it.
Ullathorne drove over when well placed and Ekoku outpaced Sergio Battistini only to spoil an impressive burst with a maladroit shot. Inter were flustered, but survived for want of a decent finish, and in the second half they hit back for Dell'Anno and Sosa to demand decent saves before Bergkamp turned Bowen on the left to supply that late, late winner.
That was that. It was all over bar the shouting, which found the trippers from Beccles and Bungay acclaiming their heroes loud and long after the final whistle. Their impressive support and impeccable behaviour had the Milanese stewards applauding them as they headed for home. A nice touch, and a fitting farewell.
Internazionale (1-4-3-2): Zenga; Battistini; A Paginin, Bergomi, M Paginin, Orlando; Shalimov, Dell'Anno, Fontolan; Bergkamp, Sosa.
Norwich City (1-4-3-2): Gunn; Bowen; Newman, Prior (Power, 77), Woodthorpe, Ullathorne; Fox, Megson, Goss; Ekoku (Sutch, 84), Sutton.
Referee: V Krondl (RCS).
Reports and results, page 43
(Photograph omitted)Reuse content