Early goals from Edin Dzeko and Henrikh Mkhitaryan put Inter Milan in firm control of their Champions League semi-final with AC Milan, winning the first leg 2-0.
In a great night for Italian football at the San Siro, Inter took command in 11 minutes with goals from Dzeko and Mkhitaryan.
The hosts had suffered a heavy blow even before kick-off when Rafael Leao was ruled out after failing to recover from a thigh injury, and his influence was lost, with Inter full of intent and punch during a devastating first half.
Inter could have led by a larger margin had VAR not controversially overturned an on-pitch penalty decision for Simon Kjaer’s foul on the excellent Lautaro Martínez despite there appearing to be clear contact on the striker.
AC Milan improved after the break, they couldn’t have played worse, but only a shot from Sandro Tonali that hit the post really tested a confident and confident Inter, who always carried a threat at half-time.
Inter have the advantage of playing in front of their own fans, back at the San Siro, for the semi-final second leg on Tuesday. The winners of the tie will play against Real Madrid or Manchester City in the final.
AC Milan: Maignan (6), Calabria (6), Kjaer (5), Tomori (5), Hernandez (6), Krunic (5), Tonali (6), Bennacer (5), Saelemaekers (6), Diaz (5), Giroud (5)
Substitutes: Kalulu (6), Origi (6), Thiaw (6), Messias (6), Pobega (6)
Inter de Milan: Onana (7), Darmian (7), Acerbi (7), Bastoni (7), Dumfries (8), Barella (8), Calhanoglu (7), Mkhitaryan (8), Dimarco (7), Martinez (8), Dzeko (8)
Substitutes: Gagliardini (7), De Vrij (7), Correa (7), Lukaku (7), Brozovic (7)
Man of the match: Lautoro Martinez
The scorching Inter crushes Milan…
The fierce rivals had not met in the Champions League since a quarter-final clash in 2005, which was abandoned when a section of Inter fans threw flares onto the pitch.
- Alexis Saelemakers started in place of Rafael Leao. Elsewhere, there were headlines for former Chelsea defender Fikayo Tomori, while Olivier Giroud led the line.
- Inter Milan boss Simone Inzaghi opted for Edin Dzeko over Romelu Lukaku up front alongside Lautaro Martinez.
It was Inter, once again, who provided the fireworks, sweeping their rivals off to a blistering start.
They were ahead after eight minutes when former Manchester City striker Dzeko parried a corner and volleyed past the defenseless Mike Maignan into the Milan goal from 12 metres.
It was 2-0 moments later.
An attack on the left found Mkhitaryan, who pushed through the Milan defense and finished beautifully into the corner.
Hakan Calhanoglu then fired a 25-yard shot against a post, before Maignan blocked Mkhitaryan’s shot from close range. It was one-way traffic.
There was a huge moment of relief for Stefano Pioli’s side after Inter were awarded a 31st-minute penalty when Martinez went down under a challenge from Kjaer. But VAR asked Spanish referee Jesús Gil Manzano to review his decision and decided to overturn his original decision.
Milan responded after the break when Brahim Díaz fired a deflected shot from 20 meters and Junior Messias squandered a great opportunity to go on target.
Tonali’s shot then barreled off the base of the left post as it felt like a night where nothing was going down for the home side.
This was the night of Inter Milan. The final is in touching distance.
AC Milan the next game is far away Spezia in Serie A on Saturday – start 5pm.
Before their rematch with Milan, Inter receive Sassuolo in Serie A on Saturday – start 19:45.
Optional Stats: Deadly Dzeko
- Dzeko has scored in all three of his UEFA Champions League semi-final appearances, also scoring in both games in 2017-18 for Roma vs Liverpool. At 37 years and 54 days today, he is the second-oldest player to score in the competition’s semi-final, behind only Ryan Giggs in 2011 against Schalke (37 years, 148 days).
- Internazionale have beaten rival Milan three times in all competitions in one season (once in Serie A, once in the Italian Super Cup, once in the UEFA Champions League) for the first time since the 1994-95 campaign .
- Only one team in UEFA Champions League history to win the first leg of the semi-final by two or more goals failed to advance to the final, with Barcelona in 2018-19 vs Liverpool (3-0 first leg, 0 -4 turn).
- Tomori became the third English player to appear in a UEFA Champions League semi-final for a non-English club, joining Steve McManaman (1999-00 – 2002-03 with Real Madrid) and Owen Hargreaves (2000-01, Bayern Munich). ).