Inter Milan 0-0 Manchester United – Champions League Live Blog – 23 February 2009
After some of the dross I’ve been covering over the past few days, it’s nice to have some genuine glamour to live blog. The Champions League returns tonight and the biggest fixture by far is Inter Milan vs Manchester United. It’s Italy v England, Serie A v the Premiership, but most of all it’s Mourinho v Ferguson. I for one cannot wait for this one and Daily Soccer Blog will provide updates throughout the match.
It’s the one both fans and pundits the world over have been waiting for. Jose Mourinho and Alex Ferguson are set to lock horns again over two legs in possibly the greatest Cup competition of them all. Mourinho has the early bragging rights, his Porto side knocked out United en route to winning the Champions League in 2004. In fact, he has lost just once in 12 matches in charge of teams against Ferguson’s United.
Despite these impressive credentials, Inter have somewhat limped into the knockout stages, having lost their last two Champions League matches and are without a win in three. Serie A is a different matter thought. They are nine points clear at the top of the table and have recorded three successive victories, beating Bologna on the weekend and arch rivals AC Milan the week before.
United themselves are in fantastic form domestically, having opened up a seven point gap ahead of second placed Liverpool in the Premiership but have been beset by defensive injuries ahead of their visit to Italy. With Vidic suspended and Evans injured, Ferguson may opt for Fletcher at right back and O’Shea partnering Ferdinand at the heart of the United defence.
Inter have defender Marco Matterazzi struggling to recover in time for the match, but have plenty of cover in the likes of Cordoba, Chivu and Burdisso to call upon.
Inter Milan: Julio Cesar, Maicon, Rivas, Chivu, Santon, Zanetti, Cambiasso, Muntari, Stankovic, Ibrahimovic, Adriano.
Subs: Toldo, Cordoba, Maxwell, Figo, Cruz, Burdisso, Balotelli.
Man United: Van der Sar, O’Shea, Ferdinand, Evans, Evra, Fletcher, Carrick, Giggs, Park, Berbatov, Ronaldo.
Subs: Foster, Rooney, Nani, Scholes, Fabio Da Silva, Gibson, Tevez.
90+4′ Cordoba is booked for a rash challenge on Ronaldo. He takes the free kick 25 yards from goal but it rebounds off the chest of Julio Cesar, who didn’t appear to know too much about it. Thre referee blows for full time, leaving it wonderfully poised for the second leg.
90′ Three minutes will be added on, can anyone produce a late winner?
89′ A great pass from Berbatov, who has been criminally ineffective this evening, almost sends Rooney through on goal. Julio Cesar, so impressive in the first half, races outside the box to clear the ball before Rooney can get a shot on.
88′ Rooney is booked, harshly in my opinion for a sliding foul on Cambiasso despite winning the ball cleanly.
85′ United are clinging on now. Ibrahimovic fires in a free kick which takes a deflection and goes behind. The replay suggests it last came off Evans for a corner, but a goal kick was awarded.
83′ Rooney finally makes an appearance and replaces Park. The labouring Berbatov remains on the pitch for now.
82′ How on earth did this not go in? A corner swung in from the left misses a crowd of players before hitting Cambiasso at the far post but it loops back across goal for Van Der Saar who catches it rather calmly under the circumstances.
77′ Ballotelli comes on for Adriano while Muntari is replaced by another striker in Cruz. Still no action from the United bench, perhaps Ferguson is happy with a draw.
76′ Giggs is allowed to advance down the left and then cut inside unchallenged. He ghosts past the anonymous Chivu and lines up a shot in the centre of the box. Just as the trigger is pulled, Cordoba throws himself to the ground to block the shot and prevent what was going to be a certain goal.
73′ Surely it’s time for Ferguson to make some changes. The guile and cunning of Scholes in midfield and Rooney, who would put in infinitely more effort than Berbatov has, could do with being introduced to the game.
71′ Fletcher gets booked for a sliding foul on Muntari on the edge of the Inter box.
68′ O’Shea gives away a free kick for a foul on Ibrahimovic but Maicon curls a useless ball straight out for a goal kick. What a waste.
67′ Ronaldo beats Chivu for pace and tries to set his team mates up on a plate with an incisive ball across the face of goal. It’s a shame none of them are interested – Park misses the ball completely, Berbatov is nowhere in sight and Giggs is too slow to meet it at the far post, allowing Inter to clear the ball behind for a corner.
65′ Ibrahimovic heads at goal from inside the box, but Evra does enough to put him off and the ball rolls harmlessly wide.
63′ Inter are looking far more impressive now and have completely nullified United. Alex Ferguson will be rueing those missed chances in the first half. As it stands, Inter look the more likely to open the scoring.
59′ Chivu is booked for a foul on Berbatov and Maicon is perhaps harshly booked for an innocuous challenge on Carrick in the United box.
56′ Maicon whips a corner towards the far post and it’s close to the goal line. Van Der Saar looks like he’s struggling to deal with it but he gets a free kick after being impeded by Adriano.
55′ Ibrahimovic is getting more into the game and looking more like the player he claims to be. He ignores the challenge of O’Shea and attempts to cross into the box, but Ferdinand puts a stop to it.
51′ Inter have started this half a lot brighter than the first. Stankovic breaks free of his marker in front of the D and rifles a low shot towards the bottom corner but it goes wide.
49′ Appeals for an Inter penalty, if not a little optimistic. Zanetti fizzes a cross into the six yard box for the awaiting Adriano, but the Brazilian feels a light hand from Ferdinand on his shoulder and goes down as though his life depended on it.
48′ An unbelievable chance for Inter. Cambiasso crosses the ball into the box, Ibrahimovic leaves it for Adriano who swings at it first time on the penalty spot. Van Der Saar is rooted to his spot but the ball goes wide.
47′ A bit of quality from Ibrahimovic down the left. He jinks the ball from one foot to the other, outfoxing Ferdinand and scoops the ball into the area for Cambiasso but it comes to nothing.
46′ Unsurprisingly, Colombian defender Rivas is hauled off before the second half begins and is replaced by fellow countryman, the vastly experienced Cordoba.
Half Time. This has been what you call a “0-0 stuffing”. United have had a ridiculous amount of shots on goal for an away team against hosts of Inter’s calibre. Better finishing would have seen Alex Ferguson’s side cruising into the second leg but as it stands, the second half will start the same as the first, all equal. Inter have not looked great at the back, compared to the solid, if patched up, United back line and Rivas in particular looks well out of his comfort zone.
45′ Inter attempt a late flurry. The lively Santon advances down the left and then infield before being tackled on the edge of the United box. The ball bobbles to Cambiasso who pelts it first time but a deflection takes the sting off the shot and it bounces through to Van Der Saar.
44′ Referee Luis Medina Cantalejo shows a yellow card to Inter’s substitute goalkeeper, the ancient Francesco Toldo, after he and Luis Figo protest on the touchlines at the sheer number of decisions going United’s way. Well, if Inter were not such a bunch of cloggers then maybe so many free kicks would be given.
41′ Park scampers down the left and with the dreadful Rivas nowhere near him, pings a cross towards the far post. Berbatov gets his head to it but it goes wide at the far post.
37′ The home side are getting into the game a bit more now after riding their luck for long periods of the first half. Adriano digs a cross out from the left but it’s headed clear by Ferdinand. The ball works itself out to Ibrahimovic who sends a cross towards the near post but Van Der Saar gathers before the big-boned Adriano can get near it.
33′ Inter may be playing abysmally, but they are still dangerous on the break. Full back Maicon puts in a sweet cross towards the far post but O’Shea is alert enough to head the ball clear.
31′ United get yet another free kick, 25 yards out, on the left hand side. Ronaldo takes it but this time only manages to hammer it into the wall.
28′ This is getting ridiculous. Some more non-existant defending by Inter in the box, Rivas again the cluprit, allows Ronaldo a free header at goal from a Giggs cross 10 yards out. Julio Cesar just stands and watches as the ball fizzes wide of goal. Of all his chances this evening, this is the one he should have scored.
27′ Inter continue to hack United down around the edge of the box. This time from the right hand side, Ronaldo smashes a free kick towards the near post which Julio Cesar touches around the post at full stretch. The replay suggested it may have been going wide, but how many chances are Inter going to afford their opponents?
26′ Giggs rides a poor sliding tackle from Rivas and charges into the penalty area. He’s on an angle and his strike on goal is beaten away by Julio Cesar who was quick to come off his line.
23′ Evra curls a peach of a cross from the left to the far post which Berbatov leaps up to head towards goal. He’s not that far into the penalty box so Julio Cesar is not that worried by it and his effort goes well wide of the post in the end.
19′ Giggs plays Berbatov, who beats the offside trap, into the box. The labouring Inter defence are all at sea and all the Bulgarian has to do is to square it for Park who would have an easy scoring chance. However, he takes too long and his eventual pass is cut out by a clutch of Inter players who finally get back into position.
13′ United win yet another free kick in range of the Inter goal, this time after Carrick goes down from a Zanetti challenge. This time it isn’t Ronaldo who takes it, but Giggs, who can only blast the ball into the wall which Inter have bothered to form this time.
11′ Inter finally muster their first attack, with Stankovic and Muntari exchanging passes who then blazes over the crossbar from 20 yards.
10′ All of the attacking play has come through United during the opening stages, Ronaldo in particular. Ronaldo beats youngster Santon on the right of the penalty box but his effort from a tight angle goes well over the bar.
8′ Ronaldo goes close again for United with a free kick from 30 yards. Inter’s wall is non existant and at first it looks as though the ball is heading for the bottom corner but it curls wide of the post.
5′ United go close to breaking the deadlock. A superb corner by Giggs from the left is met by a thumping header from Ronaldo in the centre. It’s too close to Julio Cesar who reaches out to his right and parries away instinctively.
4′ It looks like United are playing a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Giggs playing just off loan-striker Berbatov. Inter have Stankovic playing in the hole behind Ibrahimovic and Adriano.
3′ Ronaldo looked to over run a ball but dived for all he was worth over the trailing leg of Chivu on the right hand side of the penalty box. He takes the free kick himself from about 25 yards out but it’s easily caught by Julio Cesar.
1′ United kick things off but Park’s advancement down the left comes to nothing and Inter win an early throw in.
0′ Fergie surprises us with his team selection – picking Evans to partner Ferdinand in central defence and leaving Rooney on the bench. The striker has scored on his last two runouts and is just the sort of hard working player needed for tonight. I cannot fathom why he isn’t on from the start, but what do I know about managing a team in the Champions League?
0′ Good evening. This is where the Champions League starts to get interesting and I cannot wait for this match to kick off. Who is going to take an advantage into the second leg? It may not be as easy to predict as you may think because Inter are yet to beat an English club in Italy in four Champions League attempts while United have lost 10 out of their 15 visits to Italy.
On reflection, a draw was a fair result as United were by far the superior side in the first half and Inter the second. United squandered a hatful of chances and half chances in the first period but also had two fantastic opportunities in the second half. If a United player had gambled when Ronaldo slid the ball across the face of the Inter goal or if Cordoba hadn’t so heroically blocked Giggs’ effort from the edge of the box, United could have got that precious away goal. The home side could also have snatched a goal themselves, with a penalty decision not going their way and a corner which could have gone anywhere but ended up in Van Der Saar’s grasp. Inter are not the world beaters manager Jose Mourinho claims them to be, but they gave United plenty to think about in the second half. On this performance, you would think United will progress to the quarter finals with home advantage in the second leg, but Rooney starting the game is a must.
Man of the Match
Ronaldo had enough opportunities in the first half to win this accolade hands down, but his set pieces were not quite up to scratch and he missed a headed chance which he should have buried. With that in mind, I am going to award the MoM to the man who thwarted him all night, Inter goalkeeper Julio Cesar. The Brazilian stopper was equal to two free kicks from Ronaldo within the first 10 minutes of the match and again on 27 when he tipped one around the post. Julio Cesar was also on hand late on in the game to keep the score at nil nil, when he rushed out of his area to deny Rooney and then deny Ronaldo yet again from a set-piece in stoppage time.