Inter Milan fell devastatingly short of causing the upset of the season in the Champions League Final in Istanbul.
Rodri’s goal proving enough to secure the Cityzens their maiden Champions League triumph. The Nerrazurri came oh so close to beating Ederson on multiple occasions, but City’s net was impregnable.
By no means should the missed chances undermine Milan’s performance though as Simone Inzaghi’s men gave a herculean effort for the full 90 minutes as they attempted to overshadow Pep Guardiola’s unyielding Blues.
Reaching the final was an achievement in itself after enduring a torrid campaign rife with controversy and criticism. While a sub-ideal return of 12 defeats in Serie A made for unpleasant reading on the domestic front, their displays across the continent have lifted the mood around the San Siro.
A squad assembled on a net spend of just €47 million over the last five seasons managed to reach the pinnacle of European football for the first time in 13 years. It seems like a small consolation having fallen at the final hurdle, but the scale of the achievement should not be underestimated. It was an amazing journey to the final and one that gives Inter fans fresh hopes of a successful season lying ahead.
The Nerazurri were handed a tough assignment to begin their European journey as they faced European giants Bayern Munich and Barcelona in the group stages of this year’s competition.
A disappointing display at home in their first game saw Bayern run out 2-0 winners leaving Inter in desperate need of a good performance in Czechia against Viktoria Plzen to give Inzaghi’s side a realistic chance of qualifying to the knockout stages.
A comfortable 2-0 victory away from home got the first points on the board and set up a tantalizing fixture with Xavi’s Barcelona at the San Siro in which Hakan Calhanoglu hit the winner for a slender but vital 1-0 victory over the Catalonians.
Inter came to the Nou Camp on matchday four having never won at the ground in their history but that did not stop the players earning a famous 3-3 draw in a thriller that effectively secured the club’s place in the last 16. A 4-0 victory over Plzen at home and another 2-0 defeat to Bayern, this time at the Allianz Arena, rounded off a rollercoaster group stage for Inter but one that gave them a place in the knockout stages for only the second time in the last decade.
Porto were the opponents lying in wait and they were the first team dispatched on Inter’s march through the knockouts. In an evenly matched contest in the first leg, it was Romelu Lukaku who struck the decisive blow, netting a crucial late winner that gave Inter the advantage heading to Portugal.
Inzaghi’s men were on the back foot for much of the second leg but managed to survive a late torrent of Porto pressure to hold on for a 1-0 aggregate victory to earn a quarter-final berth for the first time since 2011.
It was the turn of Porto’s Portuguese counterparts to try and topple Inter in the quarters but goals from Lukaku and Nicolo Barella gave the Nerazzurri a two-goal advantage heading into the home leg.
Although it was made to be tough work, three goals at the San Siro were enough to secure a 5-3 aggregate win and set up a mouthwatering Milan derby European semi-final for the first time in 20 years and the club’s first appearance in the semi-finals since winning the trophy in 2010; a clear sign of Italian football’s rejuvenation. Inter were undoubtedly the better of the two teams in the first leg earning a 2-0 victory in a game that could’ve seen them score five or six.
Milan improved for the second leg but Lautaro Martinez put pain to any hopes of a comeback with a goal in the closing stages to give Inter the ultimate bragging rights and a date with destiny in Istanbul against City.
This remarkable run deserved a better ending and it could have been a different story if not for the goalkeeping heroics of Ederson in the final. However, the performances should be cause for hope and will obviously raise expectations for next year, expectations that this squad is more than capable of matching.
This was no fluke occurrence and they are justifiably tipped as one of the favorites to win Serie A next season at +150 and fans can use free bet offers whenever they set up an account to make that bet.
While no silverware was added to the cabinet, this European campaign will be viewed as one of the most extraordinary examples of off-the-field business on the continent. Few would say the team is one of the best in Europe, however, their starting XI in the semi-final cost a collective €114 million; when compared with many of the teams tipped ahead of them to win the tournament that is an astounding return on investment.
It’s not the star-studded side Manchester City have, nor is it the Galacticos of Real Madrid, but what this squad lacks in star power, they more than make up for in substance.
Because of his consistency, energy, and all-around impact as a creator and ball-winner, there is no doubt Barella has been one of the best footballers in Europe this season. Martinez’s off-the-ball movement is second to none and his ability to create his own space before firing home has been incredible to watch this campaign.
The Big Belgian striker Lukaku is back to his goalscoring best, proving to be an immensely valuable asset coming off the bench to torment tiring defences. With key players hitting their stride towards the end of the season, the Nerazurri will be hopeful of a successful season domestically to back up this campaign’s performance.
The priority will be improving in the Serie A as they try to reclaim the Scudetto after two underwhelming efforts in the last two years. The main areas of concern will be bringing in another midfielder and more importantly, a centre-back to help out Inter’s struggling defence.
Attacking midfielder Eduard Spertsyan and centre-back Giorgio Scalvini have been rumoured to be high on the priority list and will all bolster the ranks for next year. But regardless of who Inzaghi brings in, if this squad continues to fire on all cylinders, Inter will pose a threat to any quality of opponent and will be tipped for another successful Champions League campaign again next year.