Thu, Mar 18, 2010 - Page 20 News List

Inter end Chelsea’s European dream

REUTERS , LONDON

Inter defender Marco Materazzi celebrates after their round of 16 UEFA Champions League victory on Tuesday against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in London.

PHOTO: AFP

Inter coach Jose Mourinho enjoyed a triumphant return to Stamford Bridge with his team, who secured a 1-0 win over his former team Chelsea on Tuesday that sent the Italy-based club into the Champions League quarter-finals.

Samuel Eto’o hit a 78th-minute winner for Inter, who had fallen at the first knockout stage for the last three seasons. The Serie A side went through 3-1 on aggregate.

“We were the best team by far. To win here was almost a perfect performance not just by the team but by the individual players,” Mourinho, who left the London club nearly three years ago, told Sky Sports.

“I celebrated a lot in the dressing room because it was a big victory for my team. I love Chelsea, I love this stadium and I love these people. But I’m a professional and who knows I could coach another English team and come here again,” he said.

Inter had missed the three best chances of the match before Wesley Sneijder sent Eto’o free and the Cameroonian striker scored with aplomb, allowing Inter to fly the flag into the final eight for Serie A as the only Italian team.

“I think we dominated the game and there was no danger for us ... when we were attacking we created the chances and the goal finally came and we should have got two or three,” Sneijder said.

Chelsea, who had reached the semi-finals in five of the last six years and last lost a home Champions League game four years ago, were desperately short of creativity and barely troubled opposing goalkeeper Julio Cesar.

Inter opted against trying to sit back and defend their first-leg lead, and produced an energetic display in a first half that mainly featured appealing and complaining to the officials, and theatrical overreactions — from both sides — than constructive soccer playing.

Mourinho’s tactic to start with three strikers — Eto’o, Diego Milito and Goran Pandev — seemed to catch Chelsea off guard as it took the English club a long time to get a hold on the game.

However, solid Inter defending, with center-backs Lucio and Walter Samuel in dominant form, and a sharp block by Cesar to keep out a Nicolas Anelka flick ensured a scoreless first half.

Inter began to pile on the pressure midway through the second half and a backheel by Sneijder sent Pandev through but he was thwarted by a tackle by Yuri Zhirkov.

Four minutes later, Milito sprung the offside trap but shot wide with just stand-in keeper Ross Turnbull to beat while Thiago Motta headed over the bar from a free-kick.

Chelsea were showing nothing at the other end and it was no real surprise when Sneijder looped a ball over the home defense and Eto’o advanced on Turnbull and confidently drove the ball past him.

Turnbull did well to deny Eto’o again in injury time but it was all over for Chelsea by then, who had been reduced to 10 men by a late red card for Didier Drogba after a clash with Motta.

“Inter played very well, we could have played better, now we have to stay focused on the other competitions,” disappointed Chelsea coach Carlo Ancelotti said. “It’s fair to say we were never fully in control, they put us under a lot of pressure, they controlled the pace of the game.”

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