Milito helps Inter end 45-year wait for Europe’s top prize

Sunday, May 23, 2010

MADRID - A goal in each half by Argentina striker Diego Milito helped Inter Milan overcome Bayern Munich 2-0 in the Champions League final Saturday in Madrid’s Bernabeu stadium and end the Italian club’s 45-year wait for Europe’s top club title.

Coach Jose Mourinho may have dominated the build-up to this year’s final - not least because of what looks like his impending move to Real Madrid - but Milito stole the show on the pitch with two clinical finishes to help Inter become the first Italian club to register the treble of domestic league, cup and Champions League.

“I cannot explain how I feel,” said Milito, who also scored in all three Champions League knockout rounds as well as netting the winner in the Italian Cup final against AS Roma.

“It’s a joy I have never experienced before. It is great for the club. It is a unique sensation. This is football. I’m very happy. I always fought. I always tried to give my maximum.”

Bayern were going for a treble themselves, but without the suspended Franck Ribery were overly reliant on Arjen Robben and were unable to break a resolute Inter defence down.

Bayern coach Louis van Gaal said Ribery’s absence made a huge difference. “It is always easy to say after a defeat that Ribery was missing.

“We also played without Ribery against Lyon and Juventus and half the season. I don’t think it is respectful to the other players to point out the players that are missing.

“But in a team with this style we need a creative player and Franck is a creative player and we missed him.”

Mourinho, meanwhile, joins Ernst Happel (Feyenoord and SV Hamburg) and Ottmar Hitzfeld (Borussia Dortmund and Munich) as the only coach to have won the European Cup/Champions League with two different clubs.

The Portuguese cried at the final whistle and certainly acted like he was saying farewell to Inter, but said in the press conference after the game, that he was the coach of the Seria A club and not Real. “I am very, very proud to be coach of Inter.

“If I become coach of Real, would be because they are a huge club. They want to win. They are like Inter, they want to win not only at home, they also want to win in Europe.”

However, when he was asked directly when he was going to speak to Real Madrid president Florentino Perez, he said Monday.

He also confirmed that there were discussions going on between clubs. “But I don’t know my next project yet,” he said.

Inter president Massimo Moratti noted his coach’s emotional response to the victory.

“I hope it was not a sense of guilt,” he noted wryly before adding that repeating the feat of his late father Angelo, who steered Inter from 1955 to 1968 was a magical feeling.

“It’s a beautiful thing and I hope it remains in the heart of everyone as it did 45 years ago. We won a great cup and the team deserved it very much. Tonight we have to celebrate, then we’ll see.”

Although the Nerazzuri started the stronger, Bayern displayed the resilience that has been their trademark this season and slowly began to settle with Robben nearly finding Ivica Olic at the near post after 10 minutes.

Inter had to wait until the 18th minute for their first goal threat when a Wesley Sneijder free-kick took a slight deflection but Hans-Joerg Butt pushed the ball away to safety.

Despite having the edge in terms of possession, van Gaal was left fuming in the 35th minute when his side fell behind to a simple route-one effort from Inter.

Goalkeeper Julio Cesar’s long goal-kick was steered into the path of Sneijder by Milito, who latched on to the Dutchman’s return ball before clipping the ball over the advancing Butt to make it 1-0.

Samuel Eto’o nearly made his way through the Bayern defence two minutes later but Martin Demichelis managed to clear the danger while three minutes before the break Milito set up Sneijder, but the Dutchman fired straight at the approaching Butt.

In an electric start to the second half, Thomas Mueller nearly levelled matters when found by Olic in the box, but Bayern’s best chance of the match came to nothing as the midfielder’s weak strike was easily dealt with by Julio Cesar.

A minute later, Goran Pandev’s curling effort from the edge of the area was turned away by Butt as Inter almost caught the German champions out on the break.

Hamit Altintop’s shot hit the side netting on 53 minutes as Inter began to sit back, while nine minutes later Robben whipped in a fierce free-kick from the left that broke to Mueller, but his shot was headed clear by Esteban Cambiasso.

Julio Cesar was called into action once again on 65 minutes when he managed to claw away a Robben shot that looked destined for the top corner as Inter continued to play a dangerous defensive game.

Cristian Chivu was replaced by Dejan Stankovic shortly afterwards, having struggled for long periods against Robben, but with 20 minutes remaining Milito struck the killer blow with his second goal of the game and sixth goal of this season’s Champions League campaign.

Milito beautifully controlled Eto’o’s pass before ghosting past Daniel van Buyten and calmly slotting the ball past Butt to make it 2-0.

Milito was given a deserved standing ovation when replaced by Marco Materazzi in added time as Inter fans celebrated their third Champions League triumph after distant successes in 1964 and 1965.

“I am very happy for the president. He deserves this. The club deserves it,” said Milito.

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