Inter Milan 2 Chelsea 1: match report

24 February 2010 09:43
A famous figure from the past has thrown a shadow over Chelsea's future. As San Siro screamed itself hoarse, Jose Mourinho's Inter Milan claimed a first-leg advantage over his old team, although Chelsea returned home with Salomon Kalou's comforting away goal.

Kalou's strike came between goals from Diego Milito and Esteban Cambiasso in a fabulous game full of attacking and incident. Chelsea also flew back with their keeper, Petr Cech, suffering from suspected cruciate damage, a potentially devastating blow to their season. It was the one sad memory from an unforgettable night.

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No wonder. Two good teams went for glory, the pacesetters of Serie A and the Premier League laying on a magical spectacle. This was football of the old school, of the schoolyard even: you attack, we attack. Overlapping left-backs set the tone. Florent Malouda, reprising a role he first managed against Mourinho's Porto six years ago, kept storming forward. Javier Zanetti, ostensibly in defence for Inter, similarly spent much of the half in his opponents' back-yard.

The fuse for a classic encounter was lit by Zanetti's side, stunning Chelsea with the speed and menace of their first surge. San Siro almost dissolved in delight, particularly when the cameras panned onto the vexed features of Carlo Ancelotti, formerly of AC Milan. Another past steward of ITAL Rossoneri ENDITAL fortunes, Fabio Capello, who had jetted in from Johannesburg, cannot have been impressed by the way John Terry was caught out by Inter's opening raid.

It was a lightning strike in every sense, Mourinho's men racing down the inside-left channel. The Special One had sprung a surprise, including Thiago Motta in midfield, and the Brazilian took a pass off Zanetti and accelerated the wave that swept inexorably, damagingly over Chelsea. Samuel Eto'o carried the move on, releasing the ball into the area. Wesley Sneijder dummied and the ball continued merrily towards Milito.

Faced by Terry, the Argentine still had much to do but how brilliantly he reacted. Cutting inside the England centre-half, effortlessly wrong-footing his opponent, Milito expertly found the gap between Petr Cech and the keeper's right-hand upright.

Only one person with Inter connections failed to celebrate. Mourinho sat motionless in the home dug-out, his face as unyielding as a slab of local granite. Respect for his former players? Possibly. He also bore the look of somebody who had expected this.

Knowing Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard well, Mourinho would have anticipated their strong response. Chelsea would have turned level but for the reflexes of Julio Cesar, Inter's keeper who had recovered from crashing his Lamborghini. The Brazilian was brilliant in defying Chelsea.

The leaders in the team that Florent Malouda had hailed, the real men who take responsibility when the team are up against it, came to the fore.

Drogba began revelling in his scrap with Walter Samuel, one of those rugged Argentine defenders who could get booked practising the Tango. Challenges were flying in all over, Motta cautioned for a foot up on Michael Ballack that was almost a yard up.

Chelsea refused to be daunted. Salomon Kalou tested Julio Cesar.

Drogba unleashed a thunderous free-kick that almost shredded the Inter crossbar. Julio Cesar then clutched a Drogba shot, a deflected Ballack drive. The game kept sweeping from end to end, Milito soon booked for diving. Back came Chelsea, Drogba volleying wide.

Back came Inter. Lucio, playing a sublime pass, found Sneijder in space on the left. Inter's No 10 drilled in a cross that deserved far better than a fluffed response from Eto. A wonderful half finished in controversy. Kalou was clearly brought down by Samuel but the Spanish referee, Manuel Mejuto Gonzalez, ludicrously waved play on. The official who oversaw Ancelotti's worst moment in management, the 2005 Champions League final defeat to Liverpool, had frustrated him again.

'It looked like a penalty,'' observed Ray Wilkins, Ancelotti's assistant. Justice was done six minutes into the second period, Chelsea deservedly equalising. How fitting that it should be Kalou swooping, having been so cruelly denied by Mejuto Gonzalez.

How appropriate that the goal should be created by a buccaneering full-back, reflecting the gung-ho approach of both sides. Branislav charged 50 yards, first down the right, then angling his run across the 18-yard line, eventually slipping but managing to slide the ball to Kalou.

The Ivory Coast international, vindicating Ancelotti's decision to omit Joe Cole, met the ball first time, driving it past Julio Cesar. For once, the Brazilian faltered.

Inter shrugged off the mishap, showing their class under Mourinho, reclaiming the lead within four minutes. Sneijder, who has become such a force under Mourinho, made the goal, causing Ivanovic real problems down the left, before lifting in a cross. Ricardo Carvalho managed to head the danger clear but only to Cambiasso, whose first shot hit Terry. His second was deadly, the ball speeding past Cech.

Chelsea's keeper then fell awkwardly catching a cross, departing on a stretcher to the sympathetic, sporting applause of the Inter fans. The early prognosis was a possible cruciate injury.

As Cech was carried along the touchline, his place taken by Hilario, Chelsea sought to equalise. A superb move saw the ball speed between Drogba and Anelka before Lampard's shot was stopped by Julio Cesar.

Source: Telegraph