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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Inter Milan Vs. Manchester United Result Report

Inter Milan [0-0] Manchester United


Inter Milan Vs. Manchester United Result Report

This Champions League last 16 tie is intriguingly poised at 0-0 at the halfway stage, but the Reds will hope that an inability to secure an away goal – one that looked odds on in dominant first half – won’t come back to bite Sir Alex Ferguson’s side.

At least, United’s task in the second leg at Old Trafford on Wednesday 11 March is simple: win. Any other results – apart from 0-0, which would take the game into extra time – would see Jose Mourinho’s men triumph. But if the first half performance was anything to go by, the Reds’ chances look good. The balance of the opening 45 minutes was so ludicrously tipped in United’s favour that a goal, or a few, seemed inevitable. But Internazionale returned a different team in the second half, no longer beleaguered by the Reds’ commanding football.

The game was of top billing, a mouth-watering battle between two of the most prominent forces in Europe – United seven points in front in the Premier League, Internazionale boasting a nine-point lead in Serie A – and, of course, the resumption of an intriguing rivalry between Sir Alex and Jose Mourinho.

Sir Alex had injury concerns before the match with only six defenders travelling to Milan, two of them carrying injuries. But Jonny Evans and John O’Shea both made the starting line-up. And they weren’t the only surprises; Sir Alex left Wayne Rooney and Carlos Tevez on the bench, favouring an archetypal European away formation, set up for a smash and grab with Dimitar Berbatov leading the line, and a five-man midfield of Cristiano Ronaldo, Darren Fletcher, Michael Carrick, Ryan Giggs and Ji-sung Park.

United haven’t lost a Champions League game since the 3-0 semi-final loss to AC Milan in this stadium two years ago. The wounds of that defeat cut deep and United set out with the intention of putting that right. Ronaldo immediately grasped the nettle, he had an early sighter from a free-kick after three minutes, then tested Julio Cesar with a powerful header from Giggs’ corner, while another free-kick two minutes later had the Inter goalkeeper scrambling across his goal.

United’s demeanour was calm and confident, the passing incisive and purposeful, a more mature team than when this stadium last welcomed the Reds. United’s penetrative play created yet another chance on the 20-minute mark as Giggs’ reverse pass found Berbatov’s run into the box, but the Bulgarian could pick out Park in the six-yard box. It was all United though, and Berbatov went close again with a powerful downward header from 15 yards from Evra’s cross, but the ball drifted wide of Julio Cesar’s right post.

The Reds were dominant, dictating pace of play, while Inter were playing a containment role looking to strike on the break. United’s next opportunity fell to Giggs, played in beautifully by Carrick, but the Welshman took the ball to wide and Julio Cesar narrowed the angle enough to force a shot straight at the keeper.

Ronaldo went close with a third free-kick on 27 minutes, while a headed attempt went past the post with Inter hearts in mouths. Sir Alex’s worry as half time approached was that he wouldn’t want his side to regret a glut of missed chances, because this tie could have been virtually over inside the first 25 minutes. The only surprise at the half-time break was how the score remained 0-0.

Mourinho recognised the need to change his team and their approach, swapping Nelson Rivas with Ivan Cordoba, and no doubt having delivered a rallying half-time team-talk because Inter came out fighting in the second half. They immediately attacked and within a minute Adriano’s scuffed shot went narrowly over. Inter had far more purpose about their play and regained the belief of a previously disgruntled home crowd. But United were still a threat. Ronaldo’s went on a brilliant run on 65 minutes and squared the ball across the face of goal, but neither Park nor Berbatov could reach it for the decisive touch.

Giggs was denied with fifteen minutes remaining when he darted across the edge of the box and fired a shot goalwards, but Cordoba was well placed to make the crucial block.

Inter went close again when Esteban Cambiasso failed to turn the ball in from close range from a corner before United scrambled the ball clear. Wayne Rooney was introduced for last seven minutes in place of the energetic Park. The Englishman was his usual all-action self, but his short, sharp burst of energy delivered only a booking – albeit a harsh one for a perfectly legitimate challenge on Cambiasso – rather than the goal United craved, and arguably deserved.

It was fitting that the game ended with another Ronaldo free-kick, which twisted and swerved on its route to goal, but was ultimately stopped by Julio Cesar. The deadlock remains unbroken, but home advantage will hopefully play its part in a fortnight.