a soccer futbol calcio football news reporting site

A win like this cannot be explained, it can only be experienced.” – Leonardo

Welcome to the world of Pazza Inter, where every 45 minute half has a life of its own.

Leading up to the second leg, Champions League Round of 16 tie away to Bayern Munich, it had been a relatively tough week for Inter.  After the club celebrated its 103rd birthday on March 9, the Nerazzurri were held to a fortunate 1 – 1 draw at Brescia.  An early Samuel Eto’o goal was cancelled out by a Caracciolo equalizer and the home team had a late chance to grab all three points.  Substitute Ivan Cordoba gave up a foul in the box and was sent off for being the last man, but Julio Cesar saved a Caracciolo penalty, ensuring that Inter took a point from the game.  AC Milan did not take advantage of the slip up and drew with Bari, leaving the gap between first and second the same before Round 29 commenced.

Focus was no doubt on the big match versus Bayern and a lot was riding on these 90 minutes.  Many had cast Inter out, citing the fact that only one team prior had lost the first leg at home then come back and win the second leg, thus qualifying for the next round.  Also called into question were Leo’s abilities in guiding this team and if the team themselves would be able to overturn the 1 – 0 deficit.  Furthermore, it was another UEFA coefficient showdown, pitting the only Italian side left in Europe against a German powerhouse.  Would Bayern be able to get revenge for last season’s Champions League Final loss or would Inter show why they are the reigning European and World Champions?

In a sign of solidarity, the whole Inter squad (sans Walter Samuel) flew to Munich.  Also included, shockingly, were the recovering Diego Milito and cup tied Giampaolo Pazzini.  There was a media buzz Monday night that Milito may have recovered enough for the bench, as he scored in a training match.  When the official lineups were announced Tuesday, unsurprisingly, there was no Milito on the squad list.  Much to the chagrin of Interisti, there was also no Javier Zanetti as he came down with the flu.

Leo opted for a 4-2-3-1, with Eto’o the lone striker and being supported by the trident of Wesley Sneijder on the left, acting captain Dejan Stankovic as a trequartista and Goran Pandev on the right.  Esteban Cambiasso and Thiago Motta rounded out the midfield and sat in front of the defense.  Expected to deal with the threats of Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery were Cristian Chivu, Andrea Ranocchia, Lucio and Maicon.

The match started out on a somber note, with a minute’s silence and a banner in dedication to those lost due to the devastating earthquakes and tsunami in Japan.  Shortly after the opening whistle, the objective was apparent for both sides: win.  Inter started brightly, with some tidy passing that led to a goal by Eto’o, assisted by Pandev in the fourth minute.  The Italian side looked up for the challenge as they got the early goal they needed to tie Bayern on aggregate.

Play started to open up as both sides were looking to add to the score line in their favour.  As Inter pressed for their second, Bayern gained possession and took advantage of a defense that did not close down and allowed Robben time to shoot.  In what normally would be a routine play for Julio Cesar, he fumbled the catch, permitting Mario Gomez to knock the loose ball into the Nerazzurri net.  Déjà vu struck, as it was also a mistake by Cesar that allowed Bayern to take a 1 – 0 lead from the first leg.  The Germans’ goal unnerved Inter, as yet another Robben run punished the defense and led to a second goal by Thomas Mueller, not even 15 minutes later.  The Italian side were spared not going down 3 – 1, as Ranocchia cleared a slow roller that literally spun parallel to the goal line for half the length of the goal mouth itself.  By some miraculous fortune, half time came and Inter were only losing 2 – 1, even though Bayern had thoroughly controlled the first half.

The break could not come any sooner, as revitalization was needed through the squad.  There looked to be an air of disbelief and acceptance with the Inter players regarding the fact that Bayern had fully taken the reins of the match.  The second half started the same as the first ended, as the Nerazzurri were dispossessed right after kicking off.  A change needed to be made and Leo decided it would be Stankovic coming off for Coutinho, injecting pace and another attacker.  Despite Coutinho’s lack of playing time in recent times, he was the shot that was needed.  After being on the pitch a little more than ten minutes, he contributed to Inter’s second goal of the night.  The Brazilian brought the ball down the left, as Sneijder was moved into the middle.  Coutinho found Eto’o in the box, who passed into the path of the charging Sneijder.  Straight shot on goal, no control needed. Game on.

A sense of urgency finally hit the Nerazzurri as time started to wind down.  Bayern made two changes in an effort to hold more possession, including substituting the danger man Robben for Altintop with 20 minutes to go.  With Robben no longer in the fold and less than five minutes left in regulation, Leo took the chance of bringing on Yuto Nagatomo for Chivu to bring even more pace into the game.  Within a minute of the substitution, Sneijder booted the ball far up field in hopes of reaching his intended target of Eto’o.  Nagatomo also made the run down the pitch, entering the fray in the box with Eto’o and the Bayern defenders.  The Cameroonian controlled the ball and passed it perfectly to Pandev, who took the shot in stride to score and silence the Allianz Arena.  The only sounds you could hear were the travelling Inter fans going mad with joy and it was a sight to behold as Pandev pounded his heart with Nerazzurri pride.  The Inter bench was a scene of jubilation, as Chivu, Motta and Marco Materazzi tackled Leo to the ground in excitement.

The goal came in the 88th minute from Pandev and what a time it was for him to score his first Champions League goal.  The only thing they had to do now was hold on to their 3 – 3 aggregate and hold on they did.  Inter did what people did not expect them to do: win the match and advance to the quarterfinals.  In a touching scene after the match, Nagatomo and some of his teammates held up a Japanese flag with the words “You’ll Never Walk Alone” in tribute to his homeland.

After such an exhausting week physically, mentally and emotionally, Inter have a deserved day off Wednesday before resuming training Thursday.  The next match for the Nerazzurri is Sunday against Lecce at the Giuseppe Meazza.

Related Posts with Thumbnails

Leave a Reply


italian soccer itunes podcast

Featured Video

Sponsors

  • advertise with SerieAWeekly
  • advertise with SerieAWeekly
  • itunes podcasts
  • SerieALive Italian Serie A Fantasy League
  • soccer sportswear
  • advertise with SerieAWeekly
  • advertise with SerieAWeekly
  • advertise with SerieAWeekly

Twitter updates