It took Inter Milan 45 years plus an experienced coach to reach the UEFA Champions League final again. The whole process needed a coach with a salary of 9.8 million Euros to perform a simple task - to tell his players: Stay on defense.
The very same coach showed how scared he was of not qualifying for the final, which was supposed to be his main task at Inter, by running like a maniac after the end whistle, unable to comprehend that his team had qualified for the final.
If one thing is signified by these two events, it is that FC Barcelona proved once again they are the best team in the world and every other team dreams of winning against them, not losing by a huge difference or at least equalizing against them.
The Santiago Bernabeu dream vanished and the aesthetic element was nullified as the beautiful game faded in between Inter Milan’s players. Bring the top players throughout history and put them into a well organized team with the best manager ever, and they would still hate themselves and the game as they play against Inter Milan.
The match can be summarized in one word: boring! Not because Barcelona were playing badly; on the contrary they did their best to score and qualify for the final, but because a good defensive team like Inter were forced through Mourinho’s approach into playing a 90 minute game inside their own penalty area – literally.
The first half was spiritless, as Inter’s players constantly killed the game. Their intentions were crystal clear and their application was even clearer. Eleven goalkeepers were playing, harsh tackles were made against Barcelona players, and time wasting techniques were adopted; not to mention the beautiful acting skills of Maicon and Chivu, as they constantly forgot their exact roles on the field.
Barcelona players’ shots on goal, which were few in the first half, were either unfocused or parried away by Julio Cesar, particularly a perfect shot by Messi that was tipped away as the ball made its way to the back of Inter’s net. The rest of the half passed by, while everybody watching probably fell asleep, until Motta was booked with a second yellow card, leading to a red card and dismissal. Despite the man advantage, everything was almost the same: Inter in the penalty area, Barcelona controlling possession, and the fans trying hard to support their team, inducing them to create more serious chances on goal. However, everything went Mourinho’s way!
Anybody who knew Mourinho as a coach of other teams like FC Porto and Chelsea would have probably guessed that his defensive mentality would never change, and that the second half would not be much different than the first half.
The same strategy was adopted by the Italian team as Barcelona players struggled to cut through the defense into the penalty area. Guardiola took off Milito in the beginning of the second half putting Maxwell on the field in his usual Left Back position. Fifteen minutes later, Guardiola substituted Ibrahimovic and Busquets for Bojan and Jeffren respectively.
The Blaugrana’s continuous chances on Julio Cesar’s goal finally bore fruit late in the game. It was not Messi this time, nor Bojan, nor Jeffren, or any of the midfielders; it was the defender Gerard Pique, who had been trying his best to score since the first leg game. The acrobatic ball control and pivot by Pique before he scored were superb and amazing; Maicon and the goalkeeper could do nothing but slide down helpless as Pique faked his move, turned to the right, and found himself on goal with nothing more left to do but put the ball into the net. It was too late at this point of the first goal being scored, but everybody woke up again and their roaring shook the Camp Nou. Mourinho and Inter Milan’s players were scared, while Barcelona players felt they could score the qualifying goal.
Five minutes later, Barcelona scored the second goal but the referee did not count it, ruling a handball against Yaya Toure – the poor decision cost Barcelona their chance in the final. Earlier in the game, the referee also neglected a clear penalty on Dani Alves as he dived into the penalty area! It was as if the forces of nature, which once had tried to destroy Barcelona players through injuries, found out that the most effective way was to act through the referees, making them take poor and decisive decisions against Barcelona!
Thus the story of the second competition ends for FC Barcelona and the only trophy that remains for them this season is the La Liga title. Four matches remain for the Blaugrana, two of which are tough away matches against Villareal and Sevilla. Every single point is important at this level and not a single mistake is allowed, or else the once champions of six cups in one year will be the champions of none in the year after – and nobody wants that to happen.
In the end, people will not remember how well the club played but instead what the score was. That is what has happened in this year’s Champions League competition. The two teams that are now in the final both qualified at some point in the knock-out stage because of referees’ mistakes. These two teams play for the result and efficiency, and not for the beauty for the game. The final will be a purely tactical encounter, which is expected to be as boring as both teams wait each in his midfield for the other to take the ball and create a chance. Teams which were once unrecognized at the European level will play the UEFA Champions League final.