Pique strikes but Inter refuse to buckle amid sound and fury of Nou Camp
Barcelona 1 Internazionale 0 (Inter win 3-2 on aggregate)
Thursday 29 April 2010
It beat the famous pitch invasion he performed at Old Trafford as Porto manager and it was even better than sliding along the Nou Camp turf in 2006 to celebrate a late Champions League equaliser by Didier Drogba – Jose Mourinho invaded the Nou Camp last night as his side made it to their first European Cup final for 38 years.
Barcelona's beautiful football had not been enough to send them through and the beauty gave way at the end to ugly scenes as Victor Valdes had to be dragged away from the celebrating Internazionale manager. Sergi Busquet's then clashed with Thiago Motta and most Barcelona players left the field refusing to celebrate with their victors but it mattered not to Mourinho who had come back to haunt his former employers once again.
Barcelona fans had responded to calls for an infernal atmosphere by greeting with deafening screams the Inter team. It was a line-up that was to change just before kick-off as Pandev injured himself in the warm-up and had to be replaced by Christian Chivu.
Mourinho had already sampled the pre-match atmosphere when in the style of the last coach to win the Champions League for Inter, Helenio Herrero, he strolled out on to the pitch before the kick-off to take some of the sting out of the home fans reaction to his own players.
If his own team selection had been predictable, minus the enforced change, Pep Guardiola's was anything but. He picked Gabriel Milito not to play as centre-half against his brother but as a left back where he would face former team-mate Samuel Eto'o.
Pedro was the first to try his luck with a shot from distance that did not test Julio Cesar. And with all eyes on Belgian referee Frank de Bleeckere he showed his first yellow card on 10 minutes for Javier Zanetti's foul on Dani Alves. Messi sent the resulting free-kick into the penalty area and Zlaten Ibrahimovic was then penalised for a foul although his ripped shirt suggested he had been the victim rather than the perpetrator of any crime.
It was the start of a bad night for Ibrahimovic who was taken off in the second half having once again failed on the big occasion. Messi has failed to score alongside the big Swede in any of the last 10 games and he once again drew a blank against Mourinho.
The Argentine led the fight to Inter in the first half and when he threw Maicon into an advertising hoarding the Brazilian full-back left holding his shoulder and needing treatment as Barça tried to impose themselves physically on their opponents.
Mourinho had warned before the game that Inter would play like a team 3-1 up in the second half of a match, and not like a side at 0-0 and so it was proving with Milito left isolated up-front and nine men back behind the ball to protect the first leg lead.
The man Ibrahimovic replaced at Inter, Eto'o had his first chance on 20 minutes when Wesley Sneijder crossed from the right but when the ball dropped to the former Barça striker he could not get his shot on target under pressure from Milito.
Then on the half hour the night's turning point came and Inter's nine men behind the ball became eight. Motta had spoken before the game of how Barcelona players were fond of throwing themselves down. And with a flailing hand in the face from Motta, Busquets did exactly that, rolling over several times as if he had been on the end of a flying elbow.
Referee Bleeckere pulled out a red and suddenly the team capable of passing into submission any 11 men put before them had just 10 to beat. Motta sought out Busquets presumable to see the damage inflicted and Mourinho began rearranging his now limited resources.
Messi was the first to almost take advantage as he shot from just inside the box and Julio Cesar turned the shot around his right hand post. Ibrahimovic's first touch once again let him down again as he was put through by Xavi. Inter goalkeeper Julio Cesar was then booked for taking too long to take the free-kick as Inter made it to half time on level terms.
There were no changes at half time for Inter but Barcelona took off Milito bringing Maxwell in at left-back. Guardiola must have been tempted to withdraw Ibrahimovic at half time so out of sorts was he but Thierry Henry stayed on the bench.
Maxwell's first contribution was to send a long raking pass across to Alves but the full-back was offside. Alves was onside moments later crossing from the right for Keita to knee just wide. Inter were under pressure but perhaps the biggest concern for Mourinho was whether he would have this 10 men reduced to nine.
Julio Cesar received a final warning from the referee with Barça fans whistling for a second yellow every time he lingered over a goal-kick.
Finally Guardiola lost patience with Ibrahimovic and he was replaced by local hero Bojan Krkic. The roar for the change had as much to do with Barça fans joy at who was coming on as who was going off but it was to be Bojan who was to miss the home side's best chance when he headed an Alves cross wide.
The Mourinho show was only just getting warmed up and he kicked the ball away from Maxwell as the full-back tried to take a throw-in and was then spoken to by the referee as he tried to advise Chivu on the touchline.
Defensive became ultra defensive when Mourinho took off Sneijder for Sulley Muntari with 25 minutes left of the game and when Inter won a corner they sent just two players into the penalty area. As Mourinho had said before the game this was not about winning on the night but about preserving a 3-1 lead.
Gerard Pique finally broke the deadlock on the night running on to Xavi's pass, turning Ivan Cordoba and shooting past Cesar. That was the cue for one more roar of Messi, Messi from the Nou Camp but neither Barça nor their talisman could muster a second, leaving Mourinho to invade the pitch at the end a Champions League finalist once more.
Barcelona (4-3-3): Valdes; Alves, Pique, Milito (Maxwell 46), Keita; Xavi, Touré, Busquets (Jeffren 63); Pedro, Ibrahimovic (Bojan 63), Messi. Substitutes not used Pinto, Marquez, Henry, Thiago.
Internazionale (4-3-3): Julio Cesar; Maicon, Lucio, Samuel, Chivu; Cambiasso, Zanetti, Sneijder (Muntari 66); Motta, Eto'o (Mariga 86), Milito (Cordoba 81). Substitutes not used Toldo, Materazzi, Balotelli, Arnautovic.
Referee F De Bleeckere (Belgium).
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