Inter win Milan derby to reach Champions League final
MILAN - Inter Milan reached their first Champions League final for 13 years as Lautaro Martinez’s sole goal of the match gave them a 3-0 aggregate win against AC Milan on Tuesday.
Inter will undoubtedly be the underdogs against either Real Madrid or Manchester City in the final in Istanbul on June 10, but the way they managed both legs of this all-Milan tie suggests they will be hard to beat.
Inter coach Simone Inzaghi said he had been impressed by every facet of his team’s “extraordinary” journey to the Champions League final.
“We will only fully realise what we have done in the days to come,” he told Mediaset.
“It’s a dream come true. We always believed we could do it, we have had an extraordinary journey (to the final).
“What pleased me? Everything. The running, the determination, the concentration... they were very good.”
The key moment of the night at the San Siro came when Martinez exchanged passes with substitute Romelu Lukaku and drilled a shot from inside the penalty area that Milan goalkeeper Mike Maignan allowed in at his near post.
That goal effectively killed off the tie.
Martinez, Inter’s captain, hailed the “great work” and the cohesion of his team over the two legs.
“What counts is the squad. I experienced it at the World Cup (with Argentina),” he said.
“It makes it easy if you have a united squad with everyone pulling in the same direction, it means you get to play these very important matches in the best possible way.”
He added: “After winning the World Cup and experiencing what is the pinnacle for a player, I knew we could reach this final, and we did it.”
Trailing 2-0 from the first leg, Milan had pushed hard in the first half, spearheaded by Rafael Leao who shot across the goal and past the post with one of his side’s best chances.
Maignan then superbly dropped to his knees to collect Edin Dzeko’s glancing header from Hakan Calhanoglu’s pacy free-kick.
Lukaku’s introduction in the second half proved the spark that Inter needed to extend their lead.
Absent for much of the season with injuries and with a damaged reputation following a disastrous World Cup with Belgium, Lukaku has slowly worked his way back to his best.
The forward on loan from Chelsea immediately caused problems in the Milan defence and created Martinez’s goal to guarantee their place in their first Champions League final since the last time they won European club football’s biggest prize under Jose Mourinho in 2010.
Inzaghi said he could now sit back and enjoy Wednesday’s second leg of the other semi-final between Manchester City and Real Madrid, which is finely poised at 1-1 from the first leg.
“They’re obviously two of the best teams in Europe. The first match was well-balanced,” he said. “I’ll be watching the match with a great, great deal of interest!” - AFP
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