Inter takes advance on Champions League final with win over city rival Milan
Internazionale dealt a solid blow to city rival AC Milan in semifinals of the Champions League. The away game with the helpless-looking rival, with whom it shares its home ground in the northern Italian city, was won 2-0 thanks to two early goals.
Next Tuesday follows the return between the two teams who are also tied in Serie A in the battle for a post-summer Champions League ticket. Inter is behind national champions Napoli, Juventus and Lazio in fourth place, closely followed by AC Milan.
Both Milan powerhouses – including a duel for the Italian Super Cup – have faced each other three times before this season: following Milan’s 3-2 league victory in September, Internazionale had drawn twice early this year. The latter added to recent wins over Juventus, Lazio and AS Roma had given the guests the necessary confidence for 236th city derby.
Dumfries in base
And that was soon evident in the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, so familiar to both teams. Inter, with Dutch national Denzel Dumfries and former Ajax goalkeeper André Onana in the starting lineup, immediately grabbed the Rossoneri by the throat and experienced a dream start with two quick goals.
In the eighth minute, 37-year-old Edin Dzeko almost carelessly volleyed a corner kick from Hakan Calhanoglu into the top corner. Three minutes later, a clever cross from Lautaro Martínez helped teammate Henrikh Mkhitaryan get a free pass to goalkeeper Mike Maignan, who was powerless to the now 34-year-old Armenian’s effort: 0-2.
Things could have been even worse for Milan, which in 1963 became the first Italian club to capture the most important European club trophy and repeated that feat six more times, had it not been for the post stopping a deflected shot by Calhanoglu. Still in the same attack, Mkhitaryan struck Maignan’s legs.
Penalty kick reversed
Milan, who had to make do without the injured Rafael Leão who had accounted for both assists in the quarter-final matches with Napoli (1-0 and 1-1) and also saw midfielder Ismaël Bennacer knocked out early in the match, managed to do absolutely nothing in the first half.
It was even lucky when, after reviewing the footage, a penalty kick for Inter – Simon Kjaer allegedly tapped Martínez – was overturned.
Shortly after halftime, Junior Messias could have given the Milan derby, for which as many as two million requests for tickets had been received, a positive twist for AC Milan, but the substitute failed to finish. As did, moments later, Dzeko at the other end. Where Messias sought the far corner in vain, the striker from Bosnia-Herzegovina pounced on goalkeeper Maignan.
After finally a smoothly running attack, Milan was unlucky midway through the disappointing second half when Sandro Tonali’s shot went wide via the outside of the post. The first shot between the posts, whether or not it was good for a goal, was still to come. We had to be patient until extra time. Onana was ready to take a shot from Tommaso Pobega.
Final battle beckons
And with that, the final battle emphatically beckons for Internazionale, the last Italian winner of the Champions League in 2010 with Wesley Sneijder in the ranks and Portuguese coach José Mourinho at the helm.
The other finalist comes from the clash between Manchester City and cup holder Real Madrid, who held each other to 1-1 in the first meeting yesterday in the Spanish capital.