Italian media hail 'heroic' Inter Milan

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Italy's media hailed Inter Milan's heroics today after they eliminated holders Barcelona to reach the Champions League final.

The Nerazzurri lost 1-0 at the Nou Camp yesterday but progressed to the final of Europe's most prestigious club competition for the first time in 38 years, with a 3-2 aggregate triumph over the defending champions.

Milan-based Gazzetta dello Sport highlighted 10-man Inter's impressive defending as Barca dominated possession after Thiago Motta was sent off in the first half.

"Inter wall of glory: resists being down to 10 for 63 minutes," read its headline.

"Inter lose 1-0 but reach Champions League final."

Pep Guardiola's Barca enjoyed 75% of possession while Inter were forced to play in their own half for most of the encounter.

And the press praised a masterclass in defending.

"There was only one goal," Gazzetta admitted. "But Inter's tactics were to cover every possible hole."

Rome-based daily Corriere dello Sport lauded Inter's fighting spirit as the Nerazzurri made it to next month's final, which will be played at the Bernabeu in Madrid.

"Heroic Inter," was Corriere's headline. "They go down to 10, resist without trembling to eliminate a great Barcelona."

Meanwhile, Turin daily Tuttosport posted a photo of Inter coach Jose Mourinho celebrating with a headline: "Inter heroic, it's a final.

"The Nerazzurri team reaches for the fifth time in its history Europe's elite club competition final, exactly 38 years after the last time when it was known as the Cup of Champions."

National newspaper La Repubblica's front page includes a photograph of Mourinho running across the Nou Camp turf with his arms up in the air after the final whistle and its headline: "Inter destiny, with 10 in the final."

The newspaper's sports editorial showers the 'Special One' with praise, proclaiming: "The hero is Jose. Never before was he so special. A phenomenon for (Inter president Massimo) Moratti."

Mourinho, who guided Inter to the scudetto in his first season at the club last summer, is the reason, according to La Repubblica, why Inter remain alive in all competitions.

It read: "The man who has changed Inter.

"Mourinho gives the club a Champions final after 38 years, with one of the most exceptional defensive displays ever seen at that level."

In Spain, the press reaction differed between the sports newspapers based in Barcelona and Madrid.

In Barcelona, the tone was much more sympathetic, with Sport's front cover announcing: "The champions fall like a champion. Barca gave everything, dominated the whole of the game and only lacked one goal.

"We are proud of this team. For the way it plays, its style and its attitude, Barca continue being the reference for good football."

Inside, the newspaper went on to talk about the 'anti-football' of Inter, saying: "They passed through those who did not want to play football. The anti-football won. Barca fell into the trap of the ultra-defensive Inter."

El Mundo Deportivo, another Barcelona-based daily, was slightly more critical, claiming Pep Guardiola's side "lacked spark".

It added: "Only Pique gave a dose of mystique to a cold game, but his goal came very late. The Inter players gave a lesson in defending to put themselves into the final."

Madrid-based Marca, Spain's biggest-selling paper, led on Mourinho, who has been linked with a move to Real Madrid as a possible summer replacement for Manuel Pellegrini.

Their front page had a picture of the Portuguese coach celebrating last night's win, with the headline: "Mou, you have earned it...a place in the final...and your signing for Madrid."

AS, another newspaper based in the capital, also looked at things from a Real Madrid standpoint, with their front cover using almost exactly the same photograph of Mourinho whilst declaring: "Cibeles sleeps easily."

The fountain at Cibeles in the centre of Madrid is the traditional celebration point for Real players and fans after winning a trophy, but it could have been the destination for triumphant Barca supporters next month if the Catalan club had made it through to the final at Real's Bernabeu stadium and then beaten Bayern Munich.

El Pais newspaper went for a more matter-of-fact reporting of the match, with their headline reading: "Inter deny Barca".

It added: "The azulgrana (Barca), lacked play and players, crashed into the best version of Italian defending. Neither the dismissal of Motta or the goal of Pique were enough to get them to the final in Madrid."

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