SPORTS DESK : 11 MAY, 2023, 3:58 PM
Inter Milan have one foot in the Champions League final after an impressive 2-0 win over AC Milan in Wednesday’s pulsating last-four derby. -BSS
Inter have the upper hand ahead of Tuesday’s second leg of the biggest Milan derby of a generation thanks to strikes in the first 11 minutes from Edin Dzeko and Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
Inter could have won by a wider margin as Hakan Calhanoglu smashed a shot off the post and Dzeko wasted a great chance early in the second half, but they are still heavy favourites to reach the final of Europe’s top club competition for the first time since they last won it 13 years ago.
“Sometimes I don’t score goals and that’s all anyone talks about, but I also give something else,” Dzeko told Prime Video after his third goal since January.
“Today I worked for the team and that was what was needed in such a big match.”
Reaching the final would be extra sweet for Inter as it would avenge semi- and quarter-final eliminations at the hands of Milan in 2003 and 2005.
The winners of the tie will face holders Real Madrid or Manchester City in the June 10 showpiece in Istanbul. The first leg of that semi-final finished 1-1 in Spain on Tuesday.
Milan, who also struck the woodwork through Sandro Tonali, have their work cut out if they want to have a chance at being crowned European champions for the eighth time and will hope Rafael Leao is available for next week’s decisive clash.
The absence of star man Leao left Milan without their key attacking threat and allowed Inter to play more on the front foot knowing their opponents didn’t have the Portugal winger’s pace in their armoury.
“We conceded two quick goals, and against Inter that’s difficult to come back from,” Milan defender Fikayo Tomori told Prime Video.
“We’re disappointed, we could have done better, especially at the beginning, but we need to believe if we’re going to reach the final.”
– One team in it –
A colourful San Siro was nearly full an hour before kick-off, with both sets of fans exchanging chants and insults before the huge displays traditional to the fixture were unfurled as the teams came out.
But once the match was underway there was really only one team on the pitch, with nominal away side Inter looking the more settled and dynamic off the back of five straight wins and the recent hot form of their attack.
It didn’t take long for the away side to open the scoring and it was a fabulous Dzeko goal which did it in the eighth minute.
The Bosnia striker held off Davide Calabria and met Calhanoglu’s inswinging corner with a perfect volley which left Milan goalkeeper Mike Maignan with no chance.
With their tails up and their fans falling over each other with joy in the Curva Nord, Inter went for Milan and three minutes later Mkhitaryan doubled their lead.
Federico Dimarco was set scampering down the left flank and his low cut-back was first left by Lautaro Martinez and then collected by Armenian midfielder Mkhitaryan, who smashed in his fifth goal of the season.
Milan escaped being three goals down after just a quarter of an hour when Calhanoglu nearly silenced the boos of his former supporters with a long-range drive which crashed out off the post.
And Martinez then won a penalty which was rightly overturned by referee Jesus Gil Manzano following a look at the pitch-side monitor.
Dzeko should have all but sealed the tie when one-on-one with Maignan in the 53rd minute and not long after, while Milan’s fans unleashed a volley of flares and explosives, Tonali held his head in despair after striking the bottom of the post.
However that was the last major chance of the game for Milan as Inter comfortably held off their rivals for the final half an hour and then bathed in the applause of their supporters who are dreaming of a trip to Turkey.
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