Jose Mourinho brought the best out of Inter’s players, as his boys played an almost perfect tactical and defensive scheme, frustrating the (usually) mighty and almost unbeatable Barcelona, beating the European champions 3-1 in the first leg of the champions league semi final, a week before they head for the second leg in the Nou Camp.
Wesley Sneijder and Maicon stood out, orchestrating the disciplined nerazzuri, keeping the pitch small and pressed for the Barca players, especially Messi and Xavi, who were hardly able to find freedom to roam and dazzle with their skills (Messi) and precision passing (Xavi). Pedro did put Barca ahead after 19 minutes as it seemed too many players didn’t feel like chasing Maxwell who set up Pedro’s goal, but it was Inter’s game from that moment. Sneijder and Maicon pushed Inter forward, Eto’o and Milito drew Puyol away from the center, creating havoc and confusion in Barca’s back. Sneijder was first to score, sending the game at a draw at halftime. Barcelona didn’t really show up for the first 20 minutes of the second half, which was enough for the Inter blitz (Maicon, Milito) to make it 3-1, a lead they held onto till the end, with Julio Cesar (number of saves) and Lucio (amazing save from the line off Pique’s effort) the big heroes in the end.
What’s next? Has Guardiola been outwitted by Mourinho, or does he have the answers for the second leg? It’s a comfortable lead, but on the other hand, Barcelona at home are a frightening beast. Pep has a week to find new ways to free up Messi and Xavi, or maybe it was just a bad day for Barca, who besides Pedro didn’t have anyone playing up to his usual high standards.