Best defeat of my life: Mourinho

April 29, 2010

KARACHI: Inter Milan beat Barcelona 3-2 on aggregate in their semi-final despite losing the second leg 1-0 and playing an hour of the game at the Nou Camp with 10 men.

Mourinho’s Inter, which won the first game 3-1 last week, will face Bayern Munich in the final on May 22 in Madrid. “It’s the greatest moment of my career,” said Mourinho. “For the players, me, the fans, it’s the greatest.” Despite Gerard Pique’s 84thminute goal, defending champions Barcelona were unable to find the crucial second goal as 10-man Inter held on, breathing a sigh of relief when Bojan Krkic had a stoppage-time effort chalked off for handball.

Possession vs position

“We couldn’t do anything with the way the opposition played,” said Barcelona’s holding midfielder, Yaya Toure. “Inter stayed back and defended and the result is sad for the fans and the team.” Mourinho once again outthought his counterpart Pep Guardiola in a tense, tactical battle with the Italians having to survive an hour one player down following the first half dismissal of Thiago Motta. Inter chose to apply the Catenaccio – stay back and defend in their half, attacking only on the counter.

This choked Barcelona’s free-flow passing, blocking any room for shots for Lionel Messi or any Barca striker. Inter’s former legendary coach, Helenio Herrera was famous for inventing this defensive system and he used it to lead the Nerazzuri to two Intercontinental Cups, two European Cups and three Serie A titles in the 1960s. The Italians were doing their upmost to take the intensity out of the match, delaying at set-plays and keeper Julio Cesar was shown a yellow card for repeatedly taking his time with goal kicks, but this only served to further raise the already electric atmosphere with the 90,000 Catalan fans whistling in frustration.

Dubious decisions

The explosive atmosphere finally boiled over when Motta, already with a yellow card for an earlier challenge, swung an arm at Sergio Busquets, who was tugging at his shirt. While Motta was furious with Busquets for what he saw as an over-reaction, the referee reached straight for the red card and Inter were left to battle with ten-men for the rest of the game. Messi and Ibrahimovic were largely anonymous with the latter replaced by Bojan Krkic with half an hour to go. Inter were growing into their job while Barca were resorting to shots from distance. Dani Alves and Toure both tried their luck without going close and then the best chance fell to Bojan who headed wide from just a few yards.

The game appeared to be in control for Inter until Pique, now playing as an emergency centre-forward, turned in the box and tucked the ball into the corner leading to a grandstand finish. Bojan thought he had won it but his superb finish in the third minute of injury time was ruled out for handball against Toure.