With Chelsea struggling to find the net in front of their home fans, Samuel Eto’o’s pre-match dreams came true when he popped up with the winning goal twelve minutes from time to complete a 3-1 aggregate victory.
Mourinho named Pandev, Eto’o and Milito in front of Sneijder in an attacking starting lineup and Chelsea had a tactical battle on their hands from the outset.
There was hardly anything between the teams in a first half in which neither goalkeeper had a save to make, with Eto’o’s downwards header bouncing up over the bar and Ballack firing a low shot wide before Anelka wasted a chance in front of goal on the stroke of half time.
Chelsea’s strong start to second half saw Malouda took the ball past Maicon before seeing his angled drive kept out by Julio Cesar.
Inter replied with a sustained period of pressure, with Milito forcing a save from Turnbull before dragging a second opportunity wide, and Thiago Motta heading over Sneijder’s cross.
At the heart of Inter’s attacking play, Sneijder set up the winning goal on 78 minutes. He floated a cross into the path of Eto’o who took a quick touch before slotting beyond the onrushing Turnbull with the outside of his right foot.
Worse was to follow for the Blues when Drogba, already on a booking, was shown a straight red for stamping on Thiago Motta. Eto’o went close to a second in added time when his angled shot was blocked by the legs of Turnbull.
Watching the game I was wondering if we were seeing the end of the Chelsea run? Terry, Lampard, Drogba and Anelka are all getting on in age. Chelsea has had a great run in the Champions League that took them to five semi-finals and one final. But they were never able to win the competition.
Over the two legs Inter were surprisingly the better team. Chelsea huffed and they puffed with the power of Drogba, but there was no second option. No creativity. No guile.
Inter’s win over Chelsea was important from an Italian football perspective. With the disappointing showing so far by Juventus, AC Milan and Fiorentina, Serie A was in danger of losing one of the its four champions league places to the Bundesliga. Inter’s win ensures that Serie A will have four champions league places next season.