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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Inter beats Barca to take control of semi

MILAN, Italy (AP) Inter Milan snagged Barcelona's seemingly inevitable run to another Champions League crown with a resounding 3-1 win over the titleholder in the semifinal first leg on Tuesday.

News photo
Inter mission: Barcelona midfielder Seydou Keita (left) and Inter Milan striker Samuel Eto'o challenge for the ball at the San Siro on Tuesday night. AP PHOTO

"We have beaten the best team in the world," Inter coach Jose Mourinho said.

Pedro Rodriguez gave Barcelona the lead in the 19th minute, but Wesley Sneijder equalized before the break. Once Maicon gave Inter the lead early in the second period the host was able to dominate, and Diego Milito deservedly added a third with a header midway through the second half.

"Yesterday I said it was 50-50 and we saw what happened today and it isn't a dream, it is real," Mourinho said. "We played Barcelona and we won. We have the match to come in Barcelona and I will still say it is 50-50."

However, in talking up the second leg, he said a narrow loss at the Nou Camp would be worth a win anywhere else.

"We want to get to the final, but Barcelona is a great team with a great coach and great players," he said. "Losing 2-1 (there) would be a better result than our 3-1 win tonight."

As the match continued Barcelona appeared fatigued, perhaps feeling the effects of the 725-km coach trip the team was forced to take after flights were grounded across Europe following the volcanic eruption in Iceland.

Inter might have to make the same arrangement for the return leg next week.

"I'm not a doctor so I couldn't say if the journey affected us," Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola said. "The result wasn't good and we lost the ball too often. Today wasn't our best game."

To add to its problems, Barcelona captain Carles Puyol will miss the return leg after being booked for a foul on Milito.

After a slow start Inter had the first chance of the game. Samuel Eto'o forced Victor Valdes into a low save with a shot from outside the area. Milito was first to the rebound, but pushed his effort across the face of the goal from a tight angle.

Barcelona opened the scoring with relative ease. Maxwell beat a weak challenge from Esteban Cambiasso down the left flank, cut the ball back to Pedro and the winger shot low into the net from the penalty spot.

Milito missed another chance in the 27th. Goran Pandev flicked the ball past Puyol to Milito, but he shot wide of Valdes' far post from close in.

Inter equalized in the 30th. Eto'o picked out Milito in the area, Barcelona's defense tried to crowd him out, but he was able to pick out Sneijder to shoot past Valdes.

Mourinho's side took the lead early in the second half with a flowing move that caught Barcelona's defense on the break. Pandev found Milito onside, he broke into the box and touched it into the path of Maicon to score from close range.

Milito scored in the 61st. Eto'o broke down the right wing and hit a cross to Sneijder at the back post. He nodded the ball back across the goal for Milito's header.

"Tonight we saw a team that worked till the finish. We saw Milito cramp up. We saw Lucio cramp up," Mourinho said. "The team left everything out on the pitch."

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