Home > Football > Barcelona 1 -0 Internazionale (Internazionale wins 3-2 on aggregate)

Barcelona 1 -0 Internazionale (Internazionale wins 3-2 on aggregate)

Jose Mourinho’s Inter Milan booked their place in the Champions League final despite losing 1-0 to Barcelona at the Camp Nou.

The first major talking point came before kick-off when the team sheets came in. Upon looking at the Barcelona line-up, one would have thought that they were going to start in a 3-4-3 formation as Gabriel Milito was brought in at the expense of Maxwell. Inter initially remained unchanged from the first leg but seven minutes before kick-off, Mourinho was seen furiously imparting instructions to Cristian Chivu. What was happening? We quickly learnt that Chivu was to start instead of Goran Pandev and the official reason was that the Macedonian international had picked up an injury in the warm-up. He was not seen receiving any treatment and so the conspiracy theorists speculated that it was a reaction to Guardiola’s starting eleven.

As soon as the match kicked off, it became apparent that the whole issue was a non-starter as Barcelona lined up in their usual 4-3-3 formation with Milito at left-back. The first effort on goal came after just three minutes when Maicon allowed Pedro to cut inside and fire a right-footed effort wide of the post. Inter looked content to defend the 18 yard line and let the defending champions try to break them down. The first yellow card came ten minutes in when Thiago Motta fouled fellow Brazilian Dani Alves. From the resulting free-kick, there was all sorts of argy bargy which left Zlatan Ibrahimovic with a ripped shirt. Two minutes later, Lionel Messi pushed Maicon in to the advertising hoardings. It seemed innocuous but Maicon stayed down for two minutes in an attempt to waste time, something which was a running theme throughout the match.

The first real effort of note did not come until the 23rd minute when Alves surged up the right and played a ball in to Pedro on the penalty spot. The young Spaniard caught his half-volley well enough but it went a good two yards past Julio César’s left-hand post. Inter were offering little in an attacking sense with Diego Milito ploughing a lone furrow up front. They did however, mount their first attack in the 25th minute but Samuel Eto’o failed to control the ball when in space and the chance went begging.

The game’s big moment came in the 28th minute when referee Frank De Bleeckere showed Inter’s Thiago Motta a red card after a clash with Sergio Busquets. The Brazilian appeared to try and fend off Busquets with his hand but caught him on the chin with his palm. The Spaniard went down theatrically and his histrionics had the desired effect. A straight red looked harsh but Motta had already been booked and there was a strong case for a second yellow card so the outcome may have been the same anyway. Whatever the case, it made Inter’s job much more difficult.

Mourinho reacted by moving Chivu in to central midfield alongside Esteban Cambiasso and if Inter had little attacking ambition before, they now had none at all. Lionel Messi had been anonymous in the opening half an hour but the Argentine wizard produced a moment of magic in the 33rd minute and nearly gave Barcelona the lead. He cut in from the right and worked the space for the shot on his favoured left foot. It was heading for the bottom corner but Julio César produced a truly world class save to deny Messi his ninth goal of the Champions League campaign. Five minutes before half-time, Walter Samuel produced a top-class block to deny Ibrahimovic and the Swede was off target on the stroke of half-time with a free-kick. The two teams went in at the break level at 0-0 and whilst Barcelona had all of the possession and a one man advantage, they were struggling to penetrate Inter’s disciplined defence.

Guardiola, sensing the tie was slipping away, brought on Maxwell at half-time for Gabriel Milito but Inter were extremely comfortable defending for the first fifteen minutes of the second period. Barcelona were simply not moving the ball quickly enough and their ball retention and patient build-up only gave Inter plenty of time to organise two solid banks of four. Messi did weave his way in to the box on the hour mark but he was easily crowded out. Barcelona’s usual approach was being thwarted by Inter’s Berlin Wall defence and the Camp Nou faithful started to become restless. There did not seem to be a plan B from the defending champions and they were reduced to long range efforts.

Inter were now less than twenty minutes away from the final and did everything they could to waste time, much to the frustration of the home supporters. Their mood was not helped when Bojan failed to convert a free header from seven yards out after a pinpoint cross from Lionel Messi. One felt it was not going to be Barcelona’s night. With ten minutes to go and their hopes of retaining their title hanging by a thread, Barcelona decided to employ Gerard Piqué as an auxiliary striker and it paid off in a big way within four minutes. Xavi found the centre back in the area and any striker in world football would have been proud of what followed. He sold Ivan Cordoba a dummy and forced Julio César to go to ground before performing a Cruyff turn and slotting in to an empty net. The fact that Piqué had looked more of an attacking threat than any of Barcelona’s attacking stars spoke volumes and one wondered why Guardiola had not made such a move earlier, particularly as Inter barely entered the home side’s half in the second half.  Mourinho sensed a grandstand finish from the Catalans and so looked to sure up, removing Samuel Eto’o for McDonald Mariga. It had taken 84 minutes, but there was now a sense of urgency about Barcelona’s play. Lionel Messi shot straight at Julio César and the dream final in Madrid was fading from view. In the second minute of stoppage time, Barcelona thought they had scored the goal to send them to the final. The ball ricocheted off Seydou Keita and in to the path of Bojan who fired in to the top corner, but the Belgian referee had already blown for handball against Keita. It looked harsh as he was stood a yard from Samuel when the ball struck him, but if Barcelona had their luck in last year’s semi-final against Chelsea, Inter had theirs now.  

A jubilant Jose Mourinho runs on to the Camp Nou pitch to celebrate Inter Milan reaching the Champions League final (This image is the property of Reuters)

The final whistle went shortly afterwards and Inter Milan were in their first European Cup final since 1972. Mourinho’s men had offered nothing as an attacking force in this second leg, but had instead put on a first class demonstration of catenaccio, a style of football coincidentally pioneered by the last Inter manager to win the European Cup, Helenio Herrera. Mourinho is a polemical figure, but whatever your view on the Portuguese, there can be no doubt that he has been tactically inch perfect over the two legs, nullifying the threat of Lionel Messi and his band of merry men. Barcelona’s much vaunted attack simply failed to score the necessary goals and we will now have to wait at least another year to see if anyone can successfully defend the European Cup.

Categories: Football
  1. Harpie
    May 3, 2010 at 2:10 pm

    I think the comments about Guardiola are a little harsh with regards to the lack of a Plan B. He definitely realised that Barca were very one-dimensional last season in the way they attacked, which is why he brought in Ibrahimovic, who is an aeriel threat as well as a more skilful player than Eto’o; although Eto’o has the advantage of stretching a defence with his pace. Barca were also missing one of the most underrated and influencial men in World Football in Iniesta. I think even Inter with all of Mourinho’s tactical nous would have struggled to man-mark two players out of a game of the class of Messi and Iniesta.

    I think it’s worth noting that whilst Inter defended very well, they still had a couple of big slices of luck in the tie. Firstly, their third goal at the San Siro was offside; and secondly, the handball before Bojan’s strike at the end of the second leg was not a good decision. I, personally, wouldn’t have given a straight red for the hand-off on Busquets, certainly a yellow, which would have led to him being sent off anyway.

    I think this tie, coupled with Barca’s against Chelsea last year, shows the significant role that luck plays in getting through in these big ties. A few other examples which spring to mind are: Carvalho’s mad-handling of Valdes for the crucial final goal in Chelsea’s 4-2 win over Barca in the First Knockout Round; Luis Garcia’s goal against Chelsea in 2005 in the Semi-Finals; Chelsea not getting about three penalties in last season’s Semi against Barca.

    All credit to Mourinho and his men though. He has again proved that he is a really top-class manager and he deserves to be in the Champions’ League Final. I think Inter will have too much for Bayern, whose defence will be tested, and found wanting, by Inter.

    • May 3, 2010 at 2:24 pm

      Definitely. He did bring in Ibra because he knew they needed a physical presence up front. However, even when they desperately need a goal, he seems reluctant to move away from their pass and move game and try something different. He did with 10 minutes to go when Pique went up front and it caused chaos in Inter’s defence. In my opinion, something like this should have been done 10 minutes earlier.

      As for luck, I’ve always said you need a lot to win the Champions League and like I said in the article, the luck was with Inter in this tie. Milito’s goal in the San Siro was offside, Barca should have had a penalty there in many people’s opinion and the Bojan goal should have been given. As you say, Barca had plenty last year against Chelsea so what goes around comes around.

      It will be interesting to see what happens in the final as Bayern have come in to form and they also seem to be getting a lot of breaks.

  2. Superiorraw
    May 2, 2010 at 5:14 am

    this is pretty much spot on. I think the two managers shown tactically what they are capable of, with Mourinho having the advantage in this encounter showing his experience. I also think that the sending off was very harsh. There appeared to be no ‘striking’ motion. Not like say leonardo for brazil in the 94 world cup. There isn’t any intention at a ‘hit’ and the way Busquets fell over was ridiculous. I wouldn’t of even given it a yellow card.
    Sergio Busquets attempts to reduce Inter to 10 men worked. In a blind sort of way it’s justice done isn’t it? Barcelona for all their flair and possession couldn’t break Inter down with 11 men, then they have a shot with 10 men and only manage to do it the once, and not with Lionel Messi, Zlatan Ibrahimovic or Pedro.. or even Xavi.. but Pique a central defender used in desperation.

    Moving onto your point about Plan B. This sums up Barca’s problem. Guardiola does need a plan B, I first saw evidence of this in the Euro Super Cup against Shakhtar Donetsk. Ok, as pointed out by you before both teams didnt really want to try too hard but you could see that Barca were frustrated by Shakhtar’s overly defensive stance. Plus take that into account with the Chelsea match, ok Barca won but only by that last 93rd minute strike. I just think as a manager like Guardiola at a club like Barca, you can’t always rely on getting that one goal at the end, because eventually it will catch up with you. I always feel that the best Champion sides of any competition provide a great blend of attack/defence as well as having players and tactics that can hurt you in different ways. It’s great that they play attacking fluent passing football, but they do need a plan B. Guardiola needs to mature as a manager and realise he needs other options, teams have realised how they play and how they attack. If he can devise a series of backup tactics or strategy for the final 20 minutes he can use these when plan A isn’t working. As we discussed on MSN, Ferguson, Mourinho, Van Gaal etc aren’t afraid to make changes when things aren’t going as they should be in a game.

    I still think Inter will win the CL, but I guess thats now down to Robben and Co to prove me wrong eh. Great Blog!

    • May 2, 2010 at 5:03 pm

      I picked Inter to win this tie because of Mourinho’s tactical nous and he proved me right. There is no manager in the world who is better at getting it tactically right in the big games.

      I thought a straight red was harsh but it is a booking. The rules are very clear about raising your hands and chin/neck is a yellow so he would have gone anyone. Busquets behaviour was disgraceful but Thiago Motta (who commented before the game that Barca dive) was foolish to do what he did and give him the chance to over-react. Quite why he put his hand up back there I do not know as it was completely unnecessary.

      As for Guardiola, I don’t think there is any need to panic. Barca are the best club side in the world still and and still winning things but he does need another plan to go to when what he is doing isn’t working. For a young manager he has done extremely well at a massive club with huge pressure and I’m sure he’ll realise the need for a back-up plan and work on it.

      Whether Inter will win or not, we’ll see. I’m getting fed up of writing off Bayern and them proving me wrong. They will be on a high as they will no doubt be Bundesliga champions and on their day, they can beat Inter. That said, if I were a betting man, I’d bet on Inter.

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