Mourinho takes first blood over Guardiola at the San Siro
Inter Milan took a big step towards the final of the Champions League last night with a comfortable 3-1 win over holders Barcelona at the San Siro.
The hosts came from behind to claim the first leg advantage through goals from Wesley Sneijder, Maicon and Diego Milito. This, after Pedro had given Barca an early lead following Maxwell’s pinpoint cut-back.
Despite the drama and high skill being displayed on the pitch, it was impossible to ignore the mental contest taking place in the dugouts.
This tie pits the wits of the self-styled Ã¢â‚¬ËœSpecial One’, Jose Mourinho, against those of the pretender to his crown, Pep Guardiola.
It is difficult to imagine a contest featuring two more charismatic, and dare one say, well-dressed managers.
In the tactical stakes, it is clear that Mourinho picked up maximum points in this leg as Inter denied Barca the space to play their usual brand of breathtaking football.
However the visitors dominated the early stages and took a deserved lead through Pedro, after a typically clinical counter attacking move. Pedro’s 20th goal of the season.
The equaliser came soon after, aided by some poor defending from Barca. Eto’o crossed from the right and Milito teed up Sneijder to slam the ball home.
Inter’s second came after a rare slip from golden boy Lionel Messi. He gave the ball the ball away cheaply and allowed the hosts to break.
Milito, again, found himself in possession inside the area and this time he fed the overlapping Maicon to find the back of the net.
With Barca’s 14-hour coach journey taking its toll, Inter took the opportunity to really seize the tie by the throat.
Another break from Eto’o down the right allowed him the space to cross. From Sneijder’s misdirected header Milito found himself unmarked, and potentially offside, at the back post to nod in.
A victory for the master over the pupil then. Guardiola may have led Barca to a historic treble last season, but he found the going somewhat tougher against one of Europe’s master tacticians.
Publicly disillusioned with life in Serie A, the Portuguese manager is hankering for a move back to England. If Liverpool are looking for someone to aid their ailing fortunes, they need look no further than Mourinho.
However, one gets the impression that his destination might be further down the M62 - the cushy leather manager’s chair at Old Trafford. Watch this space.