And so this city is black and blue. Fitting colours, given the beating Inter have handed down to their rivals en route to the final. Milan – battered, bruised and their own colours lowered – were a sorry sight at this stage of the world’s best club competition.
This was not so much Catenaccio from the winners, that grand old art of Italian defending, but more so the vandalism of an opponent who were not good enough to score.
As for Inter, they did what they had to and, holding a 2-0 lead from the first leg, made sure of victory when Lautaro Martinez netted 16 minutes from time. That, however, is the extent of the plaudits, given how poor their opponents were.
For here, beneath a quite literal explosion of flares and firecrackers, was a Champions League semi-final in name and atmosphere only. The rising smoke felt like a symbol of Milan’s forlorn hopes of reaching the final in Istanbul next month. If only that fire burned beneath the shirts of those in red and black. They needed at least two goals to draw level. They could not manage two shots on target.
UEFA might as well present the trophy at tonight’s second semi-final in Manchester. This meeting was never likely to mark the rebirth of Italian football. Come the end, it was more like a party for two old boys in a retirement home.
Lautaro Martinez’s second-half strike sealed Inter Milan’s place in the Champions League final for the first time since 2010
It was a pivotal evening in Milan, with thousands of fans flocking to the San Siro to watch this semi-final second leg
Inter went into the all-important decider with a 2-0 lead on aggregate and as hosts at their shared stadium this time around
Inter’s best hope of playing in this competition next season will be holding onto third position in Serie A. There is close to zero chance of them beating either of Manchester City of Real Madrid. Not unless they parachute in Jose Mourinho to spoil their way to the trophy, as was the case in 2010.
We should applaud them for getting this far, but overcoming Milan is no form guide. In truth, the tie was won last week.
In the hours before kick-off, the centre of Milan was awash with Nerazzurri. It was as if that victory had given them territorial rights, if not yet bragging.
Pizza del Duomo swayed, bounced and chimed to the sound of Inter’s songbook, drowning the omnipresent din of sirens. There was no trouble, more so the traffic and masses of Inter fans that needed policing. Maybe it was that the other half of this derby divide were inside the cathedral. Goodness, they needed to say their prayers after the first leg.
At least God’s healing hands had reached out and touched the thigh of Rafael Leao. The forward’s absence, claimed Cyclopean followers of Milan, was the reason for their more metaphoric no-show six days previous. Nothing, then, to do with the defenders who failed to execute the basics of kick, head and tackle.
Last week’s early collapse – Inter scored their two goals inside 11 minutes – has been the subject of much scrutiny in the days since. The obsessive, rolling coverage across all mediums has captured the soap opera drama that surrounds this fixture. Not that the first episode finished on a cliff-hanger. If felt more like Milan had already fallen from it coming into this game.
The plot twist was Leao, Milan’s daring protagonist. The pink sheets of the Italian press dedicated several pages to the 23-year-old’s return yesterday. He, though, would have to find just as many words if he was going to rewrite this script.
Milan huffed and puffed for 74 minutes of the second leg, but they failed to find the goal that would spark a comeback
Simone Inzaghi was desperate to see his side keep hold of their clean sheet in the tie and see themselves into the final
Martinez then produced a cool finish from close range with 16 minutes remaining to complete the victory for Inter
His strike sealed a 3-0 aggregate win for Inzaghi’s men and booked their place in next month’s Istanbul showpiece
The Argentine celebrated his decisive goal with a jubilant Inter crowd at the San Siro, where they served as hosts on the night
The Inter faithful can look forward to their first Champions League final appearance since they won the competition in 2010
The Portuguese was fortunate to avoid the scribbling of his own name in the referee’s notebook after a heavy touch and foul on Denzel Dumfries inside five minutes, an error betraying a lack of fitness. Perhaps God had soothed the wrong thigh. He did go close with a shot across goal just before half-time, but that apart he huffed and puffed and blew very little down.
It was like a game of chess at times in the first half – not tactically intriguing, just a little dull and lacking in incident. Remove the brilliant noise and colour that exists around the game and what remains is a monochrome contest low on quality.
But at least the winning goal shone a more favourable light on affairs. Substitute Romelu Lukaku held possession on the penalty area – holding off a gaggle of Milan jerseys in the process – and rolled a pass to Martinez, who took one touch to escape his minder and another to finish low across the goalkeeper.
Milan were never coming back from that here. On reflection, they were all but beaten before a ball had been kicked.
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