And so this city is black and blue. Appropriate colours, considering the defeat Inter inflicted on their submissive rivals en route to the final. Milan – battered, bruised and their own colors lowered – were a sad sight at this stage of the world’s top club competition.
It wasn’t so much Simone Inzaghi’s Catenaccio of winners, that great ancient art of Italian defence, as the vandalism of an opponent who wasn’t good enough to score.
As for Inter, they did the right thing and, holding a 2-0 lead from the first leg, secured victory when Lautaro Martinez swept away the only goal 16 minutes from time. . That, however, is the extent of the applause, given Milan’s poverty.
Because here, in a smoking San Siro, under an explosion of flares and firecrackers, a Champions League semi-final had only its name and its atmosphere. The rising smoke looked like a symbol of Milan’s desperate hopes of overcoming that tie. If only the flicker of flames in the stands burned so brightly under the shirts of those in red and black. They needed at least two goals but couldn’t even manage two shots on target.
UEFA, you think, might as well present the trophy in tonight’s second semi-final in Manchester. This unexpected duo never marked the renaissance of Italian football. It was more like a party for two old boys at a nursing home. You can disguise it as experience, but Inter don’t have the skills or the stamina to beat Manchester City or Real Madrid.
Lautaro Martinez’s second-half goal sealed Inter Milan’s place in the Champions League final for the first time since 2010
The Inter faithful can look forward to their first Champions League final appearance since winning the competition in 2010
Fikayo Tomori (left) Olivier Giroud (centre) and the AC Milan players looked dejected after being well beaten
On the other hand, there were jubilant scenes for Inter as the players celebrated with their fans when they reached the final.
We should still applaud them for going this far and within that ungraceful tie – there were more fouls than tackles – they were deserved winners. But overcoming Milan is not a reliable form guide.
Milan boss Stefano Pioli said: “When you reach those levels, you either play two great games or go out. We couldn’t raise the bar.
In the hours before kick-off, central Milan was a Nerazzurri stronghold. It was as if the first leg had given them territorial rights, if not more bragging rights.
Pizza del Duomo swayed, bounced and chimed to the sound of Inter’s songbook, drowning out the ever-present din of sirens. There were no problems, more so the traffic and the masses of Inter fans who needed to be watched. Maybe it was that the other half of this derby was inside the cathedral. My God, they needed to say their prayers after the first leg.
At least God’s healing hands had reached out and touched Rafael Leao’s thigh. The striker’s absence, according to Milan’s Cyclopean supporters, was the reason for their more metaphorical no-show six days prior.
So nothing to do with defenders failing to execute the basics of kicking, tackling and scoring. It wasn’t so much a welcome mat as a fully carpeted place that they presented to Inter’s attack last week.
That early slump – Inter scored both of their goals in 11 minutes – had come under intense scrutiny these days.
Obsessive, rolling coverage across all mediums captured the soap opera drama that surrounded this fixture. Not that the first episode ended on a cliff-hanger. If I rather had the impression that Milan had already fallen in this match.
MATCH FACTS AND RATINGS
INTER (3-5-2): Onana 7; Darmian 6, Acerbi 6, Bastoni 7; Dumfries 6, Barella 6 (Gagliardini 84), Calhanoglu 7, Mkhitaryan 6 (Brozovic 44), Dimarco 6 (Gosens 66); Martinez 8 (Correa 84), Dzeko 6 (Lukaku 66).
Unused subtitles: Handanovic, De Vrij, Bellanova, Asllani, Cordaz, D’Ambrosio, Stankovic. Reserved: Barella, Martinez.
AC MILAN (4-2-3-1): Maignan 6; Calabria 6, Thiaw 6 (Kalulu 64), Tomori 6, Hernandez 6; Krunic 6, Tonali 6; Messias 5 (Saelemaekers 76), Diaz 5 (Origi 76), Leao 5; Giroud 5.
Unused subtitles: Ballo-Touré, Rebic, Kjaer, Florenzi, Pobega, Gabbia, Mirante, De Ketelaere, Nava.
Man of the match: Lautaro Martinez.
Arbitrator: Clement Tourpin.
Milan huffed and huffed 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 her side keep their clean sheet in the draw and see themselves in the final
Martinez then produced a fresh close-range finish with 16 minutes remaining to complete Inter’s victory
His strike sealed a 3-0 aggregate win for Inzaghi’s men and booked their place in the Istanbul showpiece next month
The Argentine celebrated his decisive goal with a cheering Inter crowd at the San Siro, where they served as hosts on the night.
The plot twist was Leao, Milan’s bold protagonist. The pink sheets of the Italian press yesterday devoted several pages to the return of the 23-year-old player. He, however, needed to find so many words if he was going to rewrite this script. Not likely.
The Portuguese was lucky to avoid a pound for a heavy touch and a foul within five minutes, an error betraying his lack of fitness. Maybe God had appeased the wrong thigh. He huffed and huffed but huffed nothing.
It was like a game of chess at times – not tactically intriguing, just a bit boring and uneventful. Strip away the brilliant noise and color that exists off the pitch and what’s left on top is a low-quality monochrome contest.
But at least the game-winning goal shone in a more favorable light on the occasion. Substitute Romelu Lukaku threw a pass to Martinez, who evaded his keeper and finished low on the goalkeeper.
Milan never came back from that here. In truth, they were beaten before a ball was kicked.
Inter jumped for joy in front of their fans and will now face Manchester City or Real Madrid
It will be devastating for AC Milan not only that they lost to their rivals, but that they barely threw a punch