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Martin Samuel: Jose Mourinho is a master of both Chelsea and Inter Milan

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25 Feb 2010 00:39:13

Martin Samuel: Jose Mourinho is a master of both Chelsea and Inter Milan

The ball hit the net and the Chelsea players, elated, ran past the dugout housing the management and staff of Inter Milan and directly to their coach, Carlo Ancelotti. They should have at least tipped a grateful nod of acknowledgement towards the glowering figure on the touchline, though. So much of the energy in this match was his. Special reserve: Mourinho declined to celebrate both Inter goals Jose Mourinho emerged victorious but he will know the game is not even half-won, although the absence of Petr Cech, the stricken Chelsea goalkeeper, strengthens Inter Milan's hand considerably. A 1-0 victory at Stamford Bridge in three weeks' time would still send Chelsea through, thanks to that away goal by Salomon Kalou, but it was a testament to the resolve instilled in both teams by a very special coach that each will feel it is in a position of strength going into the second leg. Both can make a case. Chelsea rode the loss of an early goal and will feel aggrieved not to have led at half-time, particularly as Kalou should have been awarded a penalty. Inter Milan showed great heart by taking the lead again within two minutes of Chelsea's equaliser and there were less than five minutes in which Chelsea played on level terms, a point that will not have been lost on Mourinho. Chelsea were not overwhelmed, but they were always made to fight to retrieve the game and that is a sign of the progress made under Mourinho, too. In recent years, Inter Milan have not been able to compete with the best of the Premier League. So the tie stays in the balance. It is fiendishly hard to separate these sides and Mourinho would have expected nothing less. This is no slight on Ancelotti, whose understated style should never be mistaken for inertia. Playing Florent Malouda at left back to solve an injury crisis was a brave move and paid off. Malouda did not let Chelsea down defensively, which is more than can be said for some in the back line. Arsene Wenger played Mathieu Flamini in place of the injured Ashley Cole as Arsenal advanced to the Champions League final in 2006, and this was a similarlyimpressive turn. If only English players were as adaptable as the French. Mr Versatile: Malouda (right) tussles with Mario Balotelli Yet for all Ancelotti's input, time with Mourinho shows and here were two sets of players schooled by a very singular man, whose influence lingers even after departure. Thankfully, this was not the chess match some had predicted. Mourinhowas never as dull as he was made out to be anyway. He just liked winning. A lot. Even a goal up here, he continued front-loading his team, looking for the third that would have put Chelsea away. He did not get it but, then again, he would have suspected nothing less from his old boys. If last week's match at the San Siro was an occasion with David Beckham, Ronaldinho, Wayne Rooney and Paul Scholes making the team sheet read like a Who's Who of European football from the last decade, this was a match. The stellar names were there, sure Samuel Eto'o, Javier Zanetti, Michael Ballack, Didier Drogba but there was also a sense of two heavyweight units slugging it out, toe to toe. Manchester United were always likely to have too much for creaking AC Milan, and as that game wore on, so it proved. There was, by contrast, a real air of danger around this tie. Where in recent years, Inter have disappointed against Premier League opposition, there is no doubt Mourinho has constructed a team in his image. If Chelsea wondered what to expect they needed only to look in the mirror. Enlarge Hunger: Chelsea look dejected after Milito's opener - but a 1-0 win at Stamford Bridge will see them advance Mourinho stood, on the farthest corner of the technical area conducting proceedings like a man possessed. He gestured extravagantly, raged at minor failings, there was no doubt this was a defining match for him. When Chelsea got a corner in injury-time and Inter brought every man back to defend it, Mourinho sprinted to within screaming distance to tell two players to stay high up on the halfway line. Immediately, Chelsea had to withdraw players to cover. It was a small detail, but no manager does hands-on quite like Mourinho. He said he was not out to prove a point to his former employers, but anyone who believes this does not know the man, or any man, for that matter. Yet there was more to it than mere revenge because Chelsea are also a side against which good teams are measured. The maestro: Mourinho conducts matters from the touchlines They have been a hair's breadth from being champions of Europe in consecutive seasons, and if Inter are to go that step further they must be prepared to devour some of England's elite on the way. They delivered the match we had hoped for: the bruising, punishing, fearsome contest between teams at the pinnacle of two of the world's strongest leagues. It was not always pretty, it was not always fair, there was perhaps nothing to match the divine interventions of Ronaldinho against United last week, but there was beauty for those that wished to find it. Not every painting has to be a watercolour; not every melody has to sound sweet. So, for 90 minutes, Inter Milan and Chelsea mauled each other. The midfield, in particular, was a battlefield and scoring opportunities were limited but what shone through was how well one man had schooled both sides. Ancelotti may speak for half of them now, but they remain Mourinho's in so many ways. He was right, there were no secrets here, and there will be even less at Stamford Bridge, yet strangely that is what makes the contest so compelling.  Inter Milan 2 Chelsea 1: Esteban Cambiasso's rocket is a bit Special as Jose Mourinho trumps rival Carlo AncelottiPICTURE SPECIAL: Jose Mourinho is a true box office hitCHELSEA FC


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