Inter through to Champions League final

Having won the first leg of this Milanese derby last week, it was Internazionale’s turn to play host – with the San Siro flooded in a sea of black and blue. Early goals from Edin Dzeko and Henrikh Mkhitaryan were enough to earn a two-goal advantage, but Stefano Pioli’s side would be bolstered by the return of Rafael Leao.

INT: Onana; Bastoni, Acerbi, Darmian; Dimarco, Mkhitaryan, Calhanoglu, Barella, Dumfries; Dzeko, Martinez

ACM: Maignan; Hernandez, Tomori, Thiaw, Calabria; Tonali, Krunic; Leao, Diaz, Messias; Giroud

Same stadium. Same teams. Different scenario. This time around it was Inter who were the designated home team, and they came into the clash with a healthy lead over their fierce rivals. After being absent for the first leg, the return of AC Milan’s prized asset, Rafael Leão, gave the Rossoneri a boost in their bid to become the first Italian finalists in the competition since Juventus in 2017. Inter, however, were unchanged, looking to dominate once again.

In a contrast to last week’s game, it was AC Milan who came out of the blocks much quicker than their opponents. Keen to establish their authority early into the game and spark a comeback, they saw a lot of the ball, hoping to break down Inter’s rigid defence. Their first chance of the game came ten minutes in, when Sandro Tonali was able to break down the left flank. He reached the byline and cut it back into the middle to Brahim Diaz, but his shot was tame and saved by Onana.

Despite Inter managing to keep him quiet for the majority of the first half, it was Rafael Leão who had AC Milan’s best opportunity. Using his lightning pace and tricky feet, he broke free from his marker and began running at the defence. He breezed past Acerbi in the box and fired a left-footed effort towards the goal which flew just wide, but it was a glimpse of what the Portuguese forward could produce.

Inter had a late chance of their own, however a fantastic reflex save from Maignan stopped a Calhanoglu free-kick to ensure that the game remained goalless at the break.

But despite the situation becoming more and more desperate for the seven-time Champions League winners, the chances in the second half completely dried up. Having gained experience in seeing out games against both Barcelona and Porto in previous rounds, Inter produced a masterclass in game management.

Milan pushed and pushed, but they were unable to trouble the back five of Inzaghi’s Inter. At 2-0 down, Milan seemed unlikely to recover, but in the 74th minute their fate was sealed. A quick counter attack from Inter saw Lukaku with the ball in the Milan box, and he slid in his strike partner, Lautaro Martinez. The Argentine unleashed a left-footed rocket past Maignan at the near post, sending the stadium into complete chaos.

The atmosphere was extraordinary as the San Siro serenaded their heroes. The achievement of reaching a Champions League final cannot be understated – before this season Inter had not won a Champions League knockout clash since the 2010/11 season. Their opponents in the final remain unknown for the time being, but the Italian side will hope to prove all their doubters wrong and win their fourth Champions League title.

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