Inter Milan hold a 3-1 lead over Barcelona following the first leg of their UEFA Champions League semi-final.
Mourinho's men come from behind to beat BarcaInter Milan hold a 3-1 lead over Barcelona following the first leg of their UEFA Champions League semi-final. Jose Mourinho's side will head to Catalunya for the return date thankful for goals from Wesley Sneijder, Maicon and Diego Milito, which helped to cancel out Pedro's opener at Giuseppe Meazza. Barca, following their arduous journey to Italy by bus, showed no signs of sluggishness early on and saw Zlatan Ibrahimovic come within a whisker of getting a touch to a dangerous cross inside the opening 60 seconds. The lively Milito was unable to pick out a team-mate as Inter threatened for the first time, while Seydou Keita fired well wide for the visitors as the game ebbed and flowed. Samuel Eto'o was booked for kicking the ball away in frustration on 12 minutes, with the Cameroonian desperate to make his mark against former employers. He came close to doing just that soon after, with his low drive parried by Victor Valdes but Milito was unable to force home the rebound. The Argentine was made to pay for that miss on 19 minutes when Barca took the lead in the simplest of fashions. Maxwell was afforded far too much time and space down the left and having ghosted in behind he was able to cut the ball back for Pedro to confidently slot home from 12 yards.
ResponseLucio then diverted a free header well wide as Inter looked to respond, but Barca were looking the more comfortable in possession. The Spaniards were leaving space in behind, though, and Milito went close again as he looked to curl the ball into the far corner from a tight angle. He finally made a telling contribution on the half-hour mark as he collected a scuffed cross from Eto'o and freed Sneijder in space, who stroked home past Valdes to level the scores. Ibrahimovic failed to meet a Dani Alves cross as the half came to a close, while Sneijder saw a well-struck free-kick cannon off the wall at the other end. Inter, roused by Mourinho at the interval, started the second half much the brighter and Goran Pandev was unfortunate not to meet a Milito cross and bundle into an empty net. It did, however, take the hosts just three minutes to edge themselves in front, with Maicon bombing forward from full-back to take a low cross from Milito in his stride and poke into the bottom corner. Worryingly for Barca, they then saw talismanic skipper Carles Puyol pick up a caution which rules him out of the second leg. The Spaniards did their best to raise the tempo, though, and Julio Cesar was forced to produce two smart reaction saves to deny Lionel Messi and Sergi Busquets in the space of as many minutes.
StruggleBarca continued to struggle at the back as the game ticked past the hour mark and it came as no real surprise when they conceded a third on 61 minutes. Pep Guardiola's side looked anything but reigning European champions as Eto'o floated over a cross from the right and Sneijder was left all alone yet again inside the box. The Dutchman got his header all wrong, but was able to divert the ball in the direction of Milito who grabbed a deserved goal by nodding home from close range. Barca's frustrations were now mounting, as they were unable to find a way through and were seeing their considerable array of attacking talent nullified by a resolute Inter side. Maicon was stretchered from the field with 19 minutes remaining, after colliding with Messi's shoulder, and could be a doubt heading forward as Mourinho's men attempt to secure a domestic and European double. Barca, seemingly oblivious to the fact that playing a high line was doing them no favours, were fortunate to see a couple of debatable offside decisions come down in their favour. They continued to press, though, and only a last-ditch challenge from Walter Samuel denied Pedro, while Julio Cesar had to be at full stretch to keep out a dipping free-kick from Messi. Seven minutes from time Dani Alves was booked for going down under a challenge from Sneijder inside the box, but the Brazilian seemed to have been caught and was understandably disappointed not to have been awarded a penalty. Barca continued to push as they desperately tried to find a way back into the contest, with Gerard Pique seeing a shot hacked clear from in front of his own line by Lucio, but they were unable to find a second away goal and now have it all to do at Camp Nou if they are to become the first club to successfully defend the Champions League crown.
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