Inter put one foot in the Champions League final
Defeating their archrival Milan 2-0 in the first leg of the semi-finals, Simone Inzaghi’s team has a good chance to compete for the championship.
The first leg was decided in just the first 11 minutes of the first half. From a left corner kick by Hakan Calhanoglu, Edin Dzeko showed the experience of a seasoned goal scorer by surpassing Davide Calabria to volley the ball past goalkeeper Mike Maignan. With this goal, the Bosnian striker became the second oldest player (37 years and 54 days old) to score in the Champions League semi-finals after Ryan Giggs (37 years and 148 days old).
Inter’s quirkiness continued as Federico Dimarco ran down the left wing, aiming for Calabria’s position before crossing the ball for Henrikh Mkhitaryan to score. In this play, Milan’s midfield did not have time to drop back to support the defense. Sandro Tonali was blocked by Lautaro Martinez and could not catch up with Mkhitaryan’s run from the second line.
Inter became the fourth team in history to lead 2-0 within 11 minutes in the Champions League semi-finals. Juventus did it against Man Utd in the 1998-1999 season, Man Utd against Arsenal in the 2008-2009 season, and Man City against Real Madrid in the 2021-2022 season. However, Juventus and Man City were later eliminated.
Milan demanded a penalty when Olivier Giroud and Alexis Saelemaekers were brought down in a corner-kick situation afterward. But Inter clearly had a better start as they exploited the space in front of their opponent’s penalty area well. Martinez’s dribble set up Mkhitaryan’s powerful shot that hit the crossbar. Dzeko and Nicolo Barella were unsuccessful with their follow-up attempts.
In the 31st minute, Simon Kjaer made a mistake allowing Martinez to get past him. The Inter striker fell inside the penalty area and was awarded a penalty. But after a VAR review, referee Jesus Gil reversed his decision. This incident sparked controversy on the pitch as Milan demanded a yellow card for Martinez for simulation, making the game even more tense.
Entering the second half with a two-goal deficit, Milan had no choice but to attack. However, Stefano Pioli’s team struggled to create cohesive plays. Their chances mainly came from individual efforts, such as when Brahim Diaz or Junior Messias missed the target.
A surprise high press from Alessandro Bastoni opened up a chance for Dzeko to face the goalkeeper, but his left-footed shot was saved by Maignan. Shortly after, Milan responded with a shot that hit the post from Tonali. This miss left him and his teammates lying on the ground in regret. It was perhaps Milan’s closest chance to score in the entire match. With over 30 minutes left, despite trying many ways, they couldn’t pose much of a threat to the opponent.
The attacking power of Pioli’s team significantly decreased due to the absence of Rafael Leao, who was injured. Milan also had bad luck as Ismael Bennacer only played for 18 minutes before being forced to leave the field.
This is the third time Inter has beaten their city rivals this season – once in Serie A, once in the Italian Super Cup, and once in the Champions League. They had only achieved this twice before, in the 1973-1974 and 1994-1995 seasons.
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