Barca bow to Jose’s Inter mission

“THE Translator” returned to the Nou Camp last night, inflicting a staggering 3-2 aggregate defeat upon Barcelona after playing with only 10 men for over an hour and generating simmering controversy before bringing Inter Milan to the brink of their first European crown since 1965.

Jose Mourinho, known disparagingly by that moniker after his time with Barcelona as interpreter to Bobby Robson, masterminded an astonishing success that featured growing animosity between the two sides and which culminated on the final whistle with him sprinting across the field and becoming engaged in a shoving match with home goalkeeper Victor Valdes.

The pivotal moment of the tie appeared likely to be the 27th minute dismissal of Inter’s midfielder Thiago Motta, a difficult task for the Italians becoming instantly more arduous.

Yet, the drama, thanks to Mourinho had begun even before kick-off.

Inter winger Goran Pandev, a doubt for the game with a thigh injury, was pulled out of the starting line-up minutes before kick-off by his coach, his place being taken by substitute defender Christian Chivu.

Whether a genuine injury or a stroke of psychological and tactical one-upmanship by Mourinho, the incident merely added to the tension and controversy that always seemed certain to surround this tie.

After 27 minutes of relentless Barcelona possession, and dogged Inter defending, came Motta’s unwanted moment in the spotlight as he was shown a straight red card for leaving a trailing hand which slapped across the face of Sergio Busquets.

The Barca midfielder was patently guilty of play-acting but Motta had already been shown yellow, for a challenge on Dani Alves, and was acting recklessly by raising his arm.

Motta, and his watching manager, did not share that view, however and the player added to his “crime” by accosting Busquets as he left the field.

The ill feeling, barely beneath the surface following Inter’s 3-1 first leg win at the San Siro, was now overt amid reports that Mourinho and opposite number Pep Guardiola had to be separated following a verbal spat as they came onto the field for the second half.

Well before then, the tone and tempo had been well and truly set for the evening with Inter, whether with 10 men or 11, massing behind the ball and challenging Barcelona’s galaxy of stars to break them down.

Indeed, the only time home goalkeeper Victor Valdes was required to touch the ball in anger in the first hour was to gather a weak cross from Chivu.

In contrast, Inter defended heroically, especially after the red and their own ‘keeper Julio Cesar dived brilliantly to make a stunning one-handed save that kept out a curling shot from Lionel Messi as the world’s best player, for once, was allowed the time and space to line up a shot some 20 yards from the Inter goal.

The pattern of play was well established for a second half which began with the altercation between the managers and, even more than the first half, looked like an “attack versus defence” training exercise.

All pretence at Inter attempting to attack had been abandoned yet Barcelona still lacked the guile or inspiration to break down the visitors.

Dani Alves sent a low shot wide and almost picked out Seydou Keita with a dangerous cross but, all too often, for all the multi-dimensional talents on display for Barcelona, their attacks ended in hopeful long-range shooting.

The lack of ideas and spark from the home side was astonishing, especially given the football they had played in defending their crown and reaching the semi-final, even when one of their substitutes Jeffren sent in a dangerous near-post cross towards Bojan Krkic, his fellow replacement was unable to make a telling touch and there was no Barca support in attendance.

Krcic’s woes, and those of his team, worsened in the 82nd minute when he attacked Messi’s brilliant cross and glanced an unmarked header wide from only six yards.

Gerard Pique, the central defender pressed into action as additional forward, gave Barcelona a glimmer of hope a minute later when he turned Ivan Cordoba superbly to collect Xavi’s through ball, commit the keeper and stroke home the ball.

Long shots followed from Xavi and Messi that tested Julio Cesar although the goalkeeper was equal to the challenge, and Krkic had a “goal” harshly ruled out for handball as the Italians set up their final meeting with Bayern Munich.

Subs for Barcelona: Maxwell for Milito, Bojan for Ibrahimovic 62, Jeffren for Busquets 63.

Subs for Inter Milan: Muntari for Sneijder 65, Cordoba for D Milito 81, Mariga for Eto’o 85.

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