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Mourinho the master in Madrid

May 22, 2010

Inter fans have their own Supreme Pontiff - but for how long?

Champions League Final
Bayern Munich 0-2 Inter Milan

In the end Madrid saw the perfect Mourinho performance.

The ‘Special One’ set out his players in two deep-lying barriers outside their own penalty area and invited Bayern Munich to break them down. They could not.

He asked his players to seize on any chance to get behind the German champion’s high defensive line on the break and capitalise with ruthless efficiency. They did. Twice.

Crucially, the Portuguese called on that most elusive of footballing qualities: luck. Bayern opened up his Inter defence more than once but were unable to make it count.

Inter’s lone frontman Diego Milito, on the other hand, made everything count. In many ways he sums up Mourinho’s tactical approach. The Argentine runs himself into the ground working selflessly for the collective, rarely concedes possession, and comes up with the goods when it really matters.

As full-time approached, it was a procession – Mourinho shook his former mentor Louis Van Gaal’s hand before revelling in the celebrations of a hard-fought 2-0 win and an unprecedented treble for his Inter Milan team.

In fairness to Van Gaal, until the second goal Bayern had played their part in an absorbing match. Utterly dominating the first half and threatening repeatedly, his side had looked the more likely team to score before Milito’s 35th minute opener. After the break they tore at Inter and were unlucky not to equalise.

Indeed, if Julio Cesar had not stretched to palm away a trademark Arjen Robben curler at 1-0 the story could have been quite different.

The Dutch winger threatened in the first-half too, setting up Ivica Olic – who slammed his shot wide – after easily beating Christian Chivu. The Romanian had been drafted in at left-back to compensate for the loss of the suspended Thiago Motta and his inexperience showed.

For all their possession, Bayern’s best chance came in a frantic period immediately after half-time. Hamit Altintop slipped Thomas Mueller in between Inter’s central defensive pair of Lucio and Walter Samuel but Cesar blocked his low drive.

Moments later, it was Bayern’s turn to breathe easy after Butt turned Pandev’s curling shot over the bar.

The pattern of play had been established early on – Inter content to defend deep and invite Bayern to find a way through – and the game remained finely balanced until Milito’s second goal, with the Germans continually probing.

And, while this victory must be viewed first and foremost as yet another monumental team effort from Inter, it was Milito who was undoubtedly the game’s standout performer.

His first goal came from nowhere and was totally against the run of play. Bayern centre-back Demichelis failed to prevent his compatriot knocking down a Cesar clearance and allowed the striker to drift past him onto Sneijder’s neat return ball.

As defenders closed in around him, Milito showed remarkable composure on the edge of the box to trick the goalkeeper into going to ground with the slightest of feints before expertly dinking the ball over him into the roof of the net.

Snjeider should have made it 2-0 moments later when Milito returned the favour but his weak shot was easily kept out by Butt.

If anything Milito’s second goal after 70 minutes was even more impressive and neatly encapsulated Inter’s performance. Walter Samuel threw himself in front of Olic, blocking the Croatian’s goal-bound shot, before the ball was immediately transferred up the field to leave Milito one-on-one with Van Buyten. The striker faked to go inside before beating his man with alarming ease and steering the ball past the onrushing Butt.

That made it 30 goals for the season for the 30-year-old Argentine striker and he will be one to watch at the World Cup in South Africa. As will his international team-mate Samuel – his performance at the heart of Inter’s defence was immense.

And with yet another victory, Jose Mourinho writes a new chapter in football’s history books, becoming only the third man to win two European Cups with different clubs.

If Barcelona and Pep Guardiola are the artists of world football, then Inter and Mourinho are the engineers. Barca, so successful last season with their myriad of tiny brushstrokes, were vanquished in this year’s semi-finals by an Inter side obsessed with function, strength and exacting specifications. So too were freewheeling Bayern.

Franck Ribery’s absence through suspension was critical for them – the Frenchman’s skills would have caused Inter problems but without him the Italians only really had to worry about Robben.

If this was Mourinho’s job interview for the job at Real Madrid then he surely passed with flying colours. Whether Real’s fans, who demand style as much as substance, want his pragmatic masterplan at the Santiago Bernabéu is open to debate. What isn’t in doubt is what he will bring: trophies.

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