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Friday, April 30, 2010
Inter slides into final
Italian giants lose match, advance on aggregate
BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Only Jose Mourinho could laugh about a loss like this.
Inter Milan reached the European Champions League final for the first time in 38 years, surviving Thiago Motta's first-half ejection to defeat defending champion Barcelona on 3-2 aggregate despite a 1-0 defeat Wednesday night.
"It's the greatest loss of my life," said Mourinho, the Inter coach who dubbed himself the "Special One." "It was an extraordinary game. It's tough with 11 players against Barcelona — with 10 it's a historic feat."
Inter will play Bayern Munich in the final on May 22 at Madrid. The Italians will be seeking their third title following consecutive victories in 1964 and 1965, when the competition was known as the Champion Clubs' Cup.
"We knew we would suffer in this marvelous stadium, but we did what we had to do tonight," said Samuel Eto'o, acquired by Inter from Barcelona last summer. "We knew that if we defended well, we had our chances."
Motta will be suspended for the final, as will Bayern star Franck Ribery, banned for three games Wednesday by the Union of European Football Associations for a serious foul in the first leg of his team's semifinal against Lyon.
"It will be a great final," Mourinho said of the match with Bayern, which beat Lyon 4-0 on aggregate. "It's a pity Motta and Ribery cannot play."
Gerard Pique scored in the 84th minute for Barcelona, which had lost the first leg in Italy 3-1 last week. Bojan Krkic put the ball into the net in injury time but it was disallowed because of a handball called on Yaya Toure during the buildup.
Motta received a yellow card in the 10th minute, then was given a red card in the 28th after tangling with Sergio Busquets.
A 2-0 victory would have tied the aggregate score and advanced Barcelona to its second straight final on away goals, but Inter frustrated FIFA player of the year Lionel Messi and Zlatan Ibrahimovic before 96,214 at Nou Camp.
"We suffered a lot to reach this final. We didn't have many chances after we lost Thiago Motta," Inter defender Maicon said. "But after that it was a question of desire."
Inter has a chance for a historic treble of titles. It has a two-point lead over second-place Roma in the Serie A with three games remaining and faces Roma in the Italian Cup final on May 5.
Pique scored moments after Krkic headed a clear chance wide, Pique received the ball inside the penalty area, and a spin move left a defender and goalkeeper Julio Cesar down. The defender then slotted into the open goal.
Messi was given little room to roam, but had a chance late after having delivered a perfect cross for Krkic in the 82nd with an open goal beckoning.
Mourinho and his players sprinted onto the field to celebrate at the final whistle, and Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes got into a conflict with Mourinho as the coach pointed up to the Inter section of fans. Water sprinklers turned on at the end of the field where Inter players celebrated.
"I always say that he who wins so much doesn't know how to lose," Mourinho said.
In a match that featured brothers on opposite sides — Gabriel Milito for Barcelona and Diego Milito for Inter — tensions ran high. Mourinho had stoked the rivalry by stating Barcelona was "obsessed" with playing the final at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, the home of rival Madrid.
Inter had just one shot during the game but still halted Barcelona's incredible run under coach Pep Guardiola. Barcelona won a record six trophies under Guardiola, but now has only the Spanish La Liga title to win this season. It leads by one point with four games left.
Guardiola didn't think Barcelona was a victim of its own success.
"Reaching the semifinals of the Champions League, there's never a question of being a victim," he said. "This club knows how to lose because it has lost a lot more than it has won."