Mourinho keeps Inter at the top

By Jerome Butcher
Il Biscione: a large snake. The symbol of the city of Milan and Inter FC

Il Biscione: a large snake. The symbol of the city of Milan and Inter FC

It should be so fitting that my eleventh and (regrettably) last game of the season should be against the champions of Italy and ‘the Special One’ as he is still referred to here in Italy.

Mourinho has kept Inter at the top and retained the Serie A title two games before the end of the season on a weekend which saw Barcelona win La Liga and United make it three Premier Leagues in a row. He now adds to his impressive CV a second Italian trophy after winning the Italian Supercup, and has made as big an impact on Serie A since his arrival in June 2008, than he did with Chelsea in the Premier League.

Nine English lads boarded the Fedelissimi coach to Milan at 14.30 for a 20.30 kick-off. One “ultra” pointed out that there were more English making the trip than there were Italian Siena fans. It seemed that a chance to beat the newly crowned champions in the San Siro was not enough to pull the Siena faithful away from their TV sets and Sky Italia. I estimate less than 100 of us.

The Stadio Giuseppe Meazza (San Siro) is, without a doubt, one of the most impressive stadiums I have ever seen in my life. I have now visited all the big stadiums/teams in Italy (Napoli, Juve, Roma, Fiorentina) and have been to the Nou Camp, Old Trafford, Maracanã (in Rio De Janeiro) and Wembley but nothing compares to the San Siro. It is a giant of a stadium and on a night when 80,000 Inter fans were celebrating, even before kick off, it is quite unlike any other stadium in the world.

Before the game began the choreography and impressive display of banners and flags was a sight to behold for any football fan. Siena’s manager Giampaolo vowed not to allow his players to be pushovers in this game and to be fair to Siena they began the game convincingly, seemingly unaffected by the rousing home crowd and the deafening chants. ‘Chi non salta rossonero’ the crowd’s favourite, which had every Inter fan jumping.

Calaio had a few efforts on goal where as Inter were looking lethargic and treating the game more as a formality than anything else. Within three minutes he had a shot brilliantly saved by Julio Cesar. The first goal came a minute before half time, heartbreak for Siena and us travelling fans. Disappointing given all Siena’s efforts at closing Inter down. Stankovic’s long range effort is saved by Curci but Cambiasso is in the right place at the right time and rifles it in from the edge of the six-yard box.

Inter then began to feel more comfortable with a one goal cushion and started playing some really decent football. 53rd minute Figo produces an exquisite long ball lofted over Siena’s defence into Balotelli’s feet who finds himself one-on-one with Curci and side steps him to pass the ball into the net. The eighteen year old, scores his eighth goal of the season and looks to have a very bright future ahead of him.

The huge task of beating Inter, unbeaten at home for 115 games, now looks impossible. Nonetheless Siena still attack and try to get something from the game. Del Grosso’s cross finds Calaio but his header bounces off the post.

Incredible scenes: Ibrahimovic sits on the pitch and sulks and even has the audacity to ask to be subbed off with no apparent injury to the striker. For ‘the world’s best striker’ and second highest scorer in Serie A, behind only Bologna’s Marco Di Vaio, he proves to be very unprofessional sometimes.

Mourinho does not grant his wish but does substitute Figo who is rewarded with a standing ovation (clearly something Ibra was hoping for) and on comes the young attacking right back Davide Santon. Next up, Mancini for Balotelli. It seems Mourinho wants to prove a point to his Swedish striker: he’s the boss, no one else.

Siena’s midfielder Coppolla, who came on for Codrea in the 46th minute, saw his shot from outside the box also hit the woodwork. Siena seemed destined not to find the back of the net. So, as with the second goal Inter break and punish Siena on the counter-attack, this time Ibrahimovic who hit a low shot with his left foot through Curci’s legs. He barely celebrates, visibly still sulking, but that is just Ibrahimovic for you. Last substitution and standing ovation goes to Cesar, who had a brilliant game, on comes reserve keeper Paolo Orlandoni.

Inter merit the win and are undoubtedly deserve to be champions. We leave the stadium before the fireworks and celebrations really kick off. I cannot help but smile at the number of t-shirts worn by Inter fans – ‘the Special One’ written on one side and ‘zero tituli’ on the other. Mourinho having spoken on Friday of how Milan and all the other rival teams had won ‘zero titles’ this season. He doesn’t miss a trick and his provocative and arrogant nature will continue for many years to come I’m sure; something which football fans in Italy will have to put up with. I am in no way envious.

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