CHELSEA grabbed a vital away goal as former boss Jose Mourinho and his Inter Milan side came out on top in a pulsating Champions League first-leg at the San Siro last night.
Chelsea, whose defeat was compounded by the loss of goalkeeper Petr Cech with a calf injury in the second half, were a goal down inside three minutes when striker Diego Milito put Mourinho’s side ahead.
Salomon Kalou equalised in the 51st minute but Inter restored their advantage four minutes later when Esteban Cambiasso drilled in the winner.
Kalou’s goal may yet prove to be the pivotal moment of the tie when the two teams meet again in the return leg at Stamford Bridge next month.
“There’s still the game in London to go,’’ Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard said afterwards. “On the balance of play, possession, shots on target, I thought we were the stronger team, but we knew how Inter were going to play, they do like to soak up pressure and that’s what they did.
“We’ve got the away goal and that gives us a chance.”
Chelsea might have equalised earlier than they did had they been awarded what looked to be a blatant penalty for a foul on Kalou on the stroke of half time.
Walter Samuel would likely have seen red if it was given.
Lampard admitted he did not see the incident, but added: “Kalou thinks it’s a penalty and if it is, it’s a red card and the game’s completely different.”
Mourinho did not celebrate either Inter goal on the pitch, but insisted he was more than pleased with the result.
“Of course I’m happy inside,” he said. “I was saying a few weeks ago or few months ago when we got the draw I’m a professional and I want to win as a professional I want to win more than anybody else.”
On where last night’s result leaves Inter ahead of the second leg at Stamford Bridge on March 16, Mourinho said: “We can go there with a legitimate ambition to go through.
“The most important thing is the result and we are ahead.
“It’s not obviously the result which ends the tie, it’s not 3-0 or 4-0, but no team is leading by two goals at this stage of the Champions League.”
Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti saw enough from the match at the San Siro to be confident for the second leg. “I think that what we saw tonight, we have the chance to turn it around,” said the Blues boss, former coach of Inter’s city rivals AC Milan.
“I think we played well. We leave without a positive result, but it’s not an ugly one either.
“We will play to attack and win the second leg in the same way we did in this game.
“We tried to attack and score from the first to the last minute.”
Last night’s match was sparked into life inside three minutes.
Thiago Motta’s through ball found Milito inside the Chelsea penalty area and when captain John Terry half-heartedly attempted to block Milito’s progress, the Inter striker slammed the ball beyond Cech at the near post.
Chelsea’s response was promising and moments later Kalou brought a save from Julio Cesar with a speculative 25-yard drive.
Chelsea won a free-kick some 35 yards out when Dejan Stankovic fouled Ballack in the 15th minute and they were unlucky not to equalise.
Drogba’s fierce attempt on goal cannoned back off the crossbar with Cesar well beaten.
Inter spurned a gilt-edged chance to increase the lead in the 34th minute when Sneijder’s cross found Eto’o unmarked on the edge of the six-yard box. But instead of planting the ball past Cech, Eto’o completely missed his kick.
Then came the penalty incident when Kalou was brought down by Walter Samuel but referee Manuel Gonzalez refused to point to the spot.
But in the 51st minute Chelsea were level through Kalou. Branislav Ivanovic created the opportunity when he ran unchallenged to the edge of the Inter penalty area.
The Chelsea right-back looked to have over-run the ball but managed to turn it into the path of Kalou, who curled it in from the edge of the box.
It took Inter just four minutes to re-establish their lead.
Ivanovic blocked Esteban Cambiasso’s first attempt but there was little anyone could do about the follow-up shot which flashed into the bottom corner beyond Cech from 18 yards.
It got worse for Chelsea on the hour when Cech damaged his knee after rolling the ball out and had to be stretchered off. There was nobody around the Czech Republic international when the incident occurred.
He was replaced by Hilario but it was another blow to the Blues who were struggling to get back into the game for a second time.
Chelsea should have levelled in the 64th minute when Lampard collected a cross from Anelka but saw his eight-yard shot saved by Cesar. But Inter, having been outplayed all night, hung on to record a first-leg victory but the Mourinho bandwagon will role into Stamford Bridge next month with double the intensity.
Subs for Inter Milan: Balotelli for Motta 58, Pandev for Eto’o 67, Muntari for Stankovic 84
Subs for Chelsea: Hilario for Cech 61, Sturridge for Kalou 78.
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