Champions League: Inter holds out to book final spot

Mourinho’s boys break Barca hearts with tactical display in 1-0 loss at Camp Nou.

barca loses to inter 311 (photo credit: AP)
barca loses to inter 311
(photo credit: AP)
Jose Mourinho’s Inter Milan produced a defensive masterclass in Barcelona on Wednesday night to hold the hosts to a 1-0 win in the Champions League semifinal second leg and advance to the final 3-2 on aggregate.
The Italians were reduced to 10 men in the 28th minute when midfielder Thiago Motta was sent off for a second yellow card, but put all its players behind the ball to deny Barca the chance to reclaim the title it won last season.
Despite the heightened tension of a semifinal, the storylines for this most significant of matches were nearly identical to those when the teams clashed three times previously this season – twice in the group stage, where the Spaniards won 2-0 at home and drew 0-0 away, and then in last week’s semifinal first leg in Milan which the Italians won 3-1.
The expectation heaped on the world’s best player Lionel Messi was immense while the eyes of the world were also trained on former Barca striker Samuel Eto’o, facing the team he starred for up until last season, and ex-Inter forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic, lining up against his teammates from the previous campaign.
In the end none of the three made a significant impact on a game dominated by the Inter back line.
The hosts took control from the start, pouring forward in search of an early strike, but, as expected, the Milan defense held strong.
Referee Franck De Bleeckere’s decision to send off Motta for pushing Sergio in the face just before the half hour mark, should have been a game-changer, and within a couple of minutes Messi had forced a super save from Julio Cesar.
But the Catalans just couldn’t break through and at halftime the scorewas still 0-0 even though Barcelona had had more than 80 percent of thepossesion.
Nothing changed in the second period and Barca grew frustrated,continuously pumping the ball into its opponents area to little availwhile Guardiola stood clapping on the sidelines.
Just when it all seemed over, Gerard Pique scored for Barcelona in the84th minute, receiving the ball inside the box and turning tightlybefore slotting past Cesar.
Even though Pique appeared to be offside, when midfield maestro Xavipassed the ball, the goal stood and his team took a 1-0 lead on thenight.
Suddenly the atmosphere changed and crowd awoke, but the late attacks were not enough and Barcelona was knocked out.