Jose Mourinho wrote his name into the history books as Diego Milito inspired Inter Milan to Champions League glory against Bayern Munich at the Bernabeu.
Milito set Inter on their way against the run of play with a clipped finish. And he wrapped up a win built on the foundations of a solid defence with a solo effort that saw Inter become the first Italian side to win the Treble.
It means Mourinho, who won the cup with Porto in 2004, becomes the third man in history to win it with two clubs. He joins Ernst Happel and Ottmar Hitzfeld in earning that remarkable accolade – at the age of only 47 – and, in doing so, ends a wait of more than 45 years for the Nerazzurri to regain Europe’s top prize.
That he did so by overcoming his mentor Louis van Gaal, with whom he worked at Barcelona in the 1990s, in the process only served to complete the ultimate season of personal vindication for the Portuguese.
If reports are to be believed, it is a triumph that will earn Mourinho the manager’s position at arguably the world’s biggest club, Real Madrid, this summer.
How fitting, then, that this triumph was earned at Real’s magnificent Bernabeu stadium – and as Mourinho waved to the Inter fans after watching his side lift the trophy, it looked every inch a wave goodbye and confirmation this will prove the denouement of his career in Italy.
As for the match itself, while it might not have been one for the purists, as an occasion it was spectacular. The decision to switch the match to a Saturday evening was fully justified as both sets of supporters rocked the Bernabeu from the first minute to the last. And on the field, the fare was no less enthralling.
The build-up had been dominated by Van Gaal’s and Arjen Robben’s description of Mourinho as a defensive tactician – but if their hope was that such taunts would prompt a more ambitious approach from the Italian champions, they were to be disappointed. The first couple of minutes aside, when Inter hinted at an expansive approach, Mourinho’s side’s tactics were clearly to stay strong defensively and pounce on the counter attack.
For a long time, though, it played right into Bayern’s hands. With Robben giving left-back Christian Chivu a torrid time and Mark van Bommel pulling the strings in midfield, the Germans almost completely dominated. Playing with an air of expression and invention, Bayern probed the Inter backline time and again. Robben beat Chivu down the right to set up Ivica Olic, the Croatian slamming wide, Hamit Altintop saw a right-foot shot deflected wide and Robben then skewed wide when well placed 18 yards out.
Mourinho salutes the Inter Milan supporters after his side’s triumph
At the other end, Wesley Schneider saw a deflected 40-yard free-kick beaten away by Bayern keeper Hans-Jorg Butt and Esteban Cambiasso had a firm volley blocked.
But Inter’s attacking personnel were largely anonymous in the face of the Germans’ control. Then, on 34 minutes, came Inter’s ambush, Milito nodding Inter keeper Julio Cesar’s long clearance down to Schneider and then dashing on to the Dutchman’s smart return to clip home a delightful finish.
Mourinho’s muted celebrations highlighted his awareness that it was a lead his side barely deserved. It could – and should – however, have been 2-0 moments before the break when, racing into the box, Schneider shot tamely from Milito’s lay-off and Butt palmed away his effort from 16 yards out. Still, having watched Inter repel pass-masters Barcelona with 10 men in the semi-final, Bayern boss Van Gaal will have been all too mindful of the Italians’ ability to defend a lead and he sent his team out flying in the second half.
Just moments after the restart, the German champions should have been level, Thomas Mueller failing to connect smartly enough with a sliding finish with just the keeper to beat, allowing Cesar to beat his shot away. It was a miss he was almost made to rue within minutes as Milito burst down Bayern’s left, cut the ball back to Pandev, only for Butt to brilliantly tip the Macedonian’s clipped effort past the post.
Predictably, though, the pattern for the second half had been set – Bayern controlling possession and Inter sitting deep and breaking. Robben remained far and away Bayern’s most potent weapon, his pace and skill down the right prompting almost continuous volleys from an increasingly frustrated Mourinho on the sidelines.
Bayern’s Bastian Schweinsteiger and Thomas Muller show their dismay
A free-kick from the Dutchman almost led to an equaliser when it fell to Mueller, only for the German’s snap-shot to be blocked, before a fine curler again brought the best out of Cesar in the Inter goal minutes later. But, just as in the first half, for all their considered build-up Bayern were always vulnerable on the counter attack, and another moment of Milito magic settled it.
The Argentine – a constant thorn in the Germans’ side – had it all to do when he collected a pass from Samuel Eto’o on 70 minutes. But Milito was not to be denied and turned defender Mark van Buyten brilliantly – though far too easily – before side-footing a sensational 30th goal of his season.
The goal was effectively game, set and match, Bayern’s sting very much drawn and Inter allowed to coast to victory thereafter.
The final whistle prompted a warm embrace between Mourinho and Van Gaal, before the Portuguese enjoyed the celebrations with his team. But he then stalked the Inter end a lone figure, waving deadpanned towards the Nerazzurri faithful. Having beaten the English, Spanish and German champions en route to European club football’s most sought-after trophy, few could deny Mourinho his moment – nor his place in history.
Source : BBC Sport