Jose Mourinho got one over his former employers as Inter Milan beat Chelsea 2-1 in the Champions League last 16, first leg clash at the San Siro yesterday. It's a slender advantage but a crucial one for Inter ahead of the second leg at Stamford Bridge on March 16 and also represented a milestone as it was the first victory for the Italians against an English team since 2003 and a 3-0 win over Arsenal in London.
For Chelsea coach Carlo Ancelotti it was an unhappy return to the stadium where he served AC Milan for eight years with such distinction, winning two Champions League titles and one scudetto. Mourinho did not gloat over taking a slender advantage to London in three weeks time. "Of course I am happy inside," said the Portuguese. "Because as a professional I want to win and as a professional I want to win more trophies than anyone else.
"There were no surprises from us tonight and Chelsea didn't have any either. "We are evenly matched sides. Chelsea are not better than us, they have different qualities just as we do." Inter were off to a flying start and went ahead after just three minutes following some shoddy defending by Chelsea, as Thiago Motta played the ball into Samuel Eto'o who fed it on to Diego Milito, the Argentine cutting too easily inside the wrong-footed John Terry and shooting home at Peter Cech's near post.
Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard, who was returning after missing last weekend's match because of a virus, said that the early goal conceded to the Italians had knocked the stuffing out of them. "I felt overall we were the stronger team but them getting the early goal made it more difficult for us," said Lampard. "But going back to Stamford Bridge at 2-1 makes it fairly even but obviously we have got to win the match itself."
It was just the dream start Inter would have wanted but Chelsea's reaction was awe-inspiring as the visitors took total control. Their first chance came on 11 minutes as Nicolas Anelka shot wide of the near post before a minute later Salomon Kalou twisted and turned on the edge of the box but shot straight at Julio Cesar. Then up stepped Didier Drogba on the quarter-hour mark to crash a free kick from 25 yards against the crossbar and follow that up with a fine effort that forced Cesar into a sprawling save.
Cesar then had to parry from Michael Ballack and Drogba hooked a volley wide after controlling the ball on his chest in the box and then sent another volley wide when fed by John Obi Mikel. The half ended in controversial fashion as Samuel appeared to trip Kalou in the box referee Manuel Gonzalez waved away Chelsea appeals. Chelsea got what their play deserved just six minutes after the restart but from some poor Inter defending.
Motta let Branislav Ivanovic run forward from right back to the edge of the Inter area without a challenge before the Serbian cut across the box and tapped the ball out to Kalou, whose nonchalant side foot from 20 yards somehow found its way through a crowd of defenders and past Cesar, who possibly should have done better. And yet four minutes later Inter were back in front as Esteban Cambiasso's wild shot from distance, which was going wide, struck Ivanovic in the midriff and came back to the Argentine whose second effort deceived Cech and found the far corner.
Mourinho then made the surprising move of bringing on striker Mario Balotelli for Motta while Cech suffered what was first thought to be a knee injury but was later diagnosed as a calf problem and was replaced by Henrique Hilario. On 65 minutes great play between Drogba and Anelka teed up Lampard but Cesar parried his close range effort. Chelsea dominated the ball but created little in the way of clear cut chances in the final stages and it is advantage Inter and Mourinho.