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Goal.com's Subhankar Mondal looks back at how the Italian giants conquered Europe in 2009-10.....

PRE-SEASON EXPECTATIONS

Inter had failed to reach the quarter-finals of the Champions League for the past three seasons and despite dominating Serie A since the Calciopoli scandal, club supremo Massimo Moratti was not very happy. The Italian oil tycoon did not shy away from expressing that what he wanted the most in 2009-10 was the Champions League.

The pressure was on coach Jose Mourinho, whom many expected to leave Inter should he fail to end the Nerazzurri's European Cup drought. Key striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic was exchanged with Barcelona's Samuel Eto'o and a healthy amount of cash and Real Madrid reject Wesley Sneijder was taken in; the duo joined Diego Milito and Thiago Motta, who came in from Genoa. Lucio flew in from Germany and Inter's 'team' was complete.

Bring on the Champions League!


The Lure Of The Silver

GROUP STAGE

The Beneamata were clubbed with European and Spanish champions Barcelona, Ukrainian champions Dynamo Kyiv and Russian champions Rubin Kazan in Group F, which was the only group in the competition in which all four teams were winners of their respective domestic leagues.


Matchday 1: Inter 0-0 Barcelona



Inter's opening match in the group stage was against Barcelona at the San Siro and it ended in a 0-0 draw. The Nerazzurri played a defensive game, relying on rare counter-attacks. The game also saw Ibrahimovic return to his old stomping ground and Eto'o confront the side with whom he had won the European Cup in 2006 and 2009.


Matchday 2: Rubin Kazan 1-1 Inter



Inter's second game in the group stage ended in a 1-1 draw in Kazan. The former European champions fell behind to a Alejandro Dominguez goal in the 11th minute but had Dejan Stankovic to thank for scoring the equaliser on 27 minutes. Mario Balotelli was given his marching orders in the 60th minute.


Matchday 3: Inter 2-2 Dynamo Kiev



Most expected the Nerazzurri to win this match but instead they could only record another draw. Taras Mikhalik gave the Ukrainians the lead as early as the fifth minute but Stankovic restored parity on 35. However, five minutes before half-time Lucio scored an own goal to make it 2-1 to Dynamo. Just two minutes into the second half Walter Samuel scored to make it 2-2 but Inter couldn't prise a winner.


Matchday 4: Dynamo Kiev 1-2 Inter



Inter's stuttering form in the Champions League appeared to be heading towards a new nadir as they were trailing to Dynamo 1-0 until the last five minutes of the match: Andriy Shevchenko had breached the Inter citadel in the 21st minute with an impudent finish. But Diego Milito and Wesley Sneijder scored two quick goals in the final minutes to bag maximum points for the Nerazzurri and sensationally send them top of the group.


Matchday 5: Barcelona 2-0 Inter



Inter were taught a footballing lesson by 'fantasy football'-playing Barcelona at Camp Nou. The 2-0 defeat wasn't as comprehensive as the scoreline may suggest but in truth the Nerazzurri were spared a more vicious blue-and-black beating.


Matchday 6: Inter 2-0 Rubin Kazan



Inter were facing the proposition of Champions League elimination going into Matchday 6 but Samuel Eto'o calmed the nerves on 31 minutes with the opening goal of the evening. Mario Balotelli secured all three points in the 64th minute with a stunning second.

Inter finished runners-up in Group F with nine points, just two behind group winners Barcelona.

LAST 16 STAGE


First Leg: Inter 2-1 Chelsea

Diego Milito sent Inter into an early lead with an excellent  third minute striek at the San Siro. Salomon Kalou equalised six minutes into the second half, only for Esteban Cambiasso to restore the hosts' lead on 55 minutes. It finished 2-1 to Inter, but there were fears that Kalou's away goal might come back to haunt them.



Second Leg: Chelsea 0-1 Inter


A one-goal win would have been enough for the Blues but it was Inter who walked away of Stamford Bridge with the victory. Samuel Eto'o popped up with the winner 12 minutes from time to accomplish a 3-1 aggregate triumph over the Londoners. Chelsea striker Didier Drogba was sent off in the 86th minute.


QUARTER-FINALS

First Leg: Inter 1-0 CSKA Moscow

Inter had taken four points off Russian side Rubin Kazan in the group stages and were confident of getting past CSKA Moscow. Some thought that Inter were lucky to have been paired with CSKA. However, the Beneamata could only scrape the first leg 1-0 thanks to a Diego Milito goal, although they had loads and loads of chances to finish the tie at the first time of asking.



Second Leg: CSKA Moscow 0-1 Inter

CSKA needed an early goal but it was Jose Mourinho's side who took the initiative. The only goal came in the sixth minute when Wesley Sneijder scored from a free-kick. The Russians looked finished after that and things went from bad to worse for them when Chidi Odiah was sent off four minutes into the second half. Inter won the tie 2-0 on aggregate.


SEMI-FINALS

First Leg: Inter 3-1 Barcelona

It was the Nerazzurri who conceded the first goal of the evening at the San Siro in the 19th minute when Pedro struck. But Inter came roaring back, scoring through Wesley Sneijder, Maicon and Diego Milito to win the first leg 3-1. It was a masterclass performance from the Italians, who made Barcelona look ordinary at times.



Second Leg: Barcelona 1-0 Inter

The game turned controversial in the 28th minute when Thiago Motta was sent off for what seemed like a minor foul on Sergio Busquets. After going a man down, Mourinho decided to shut up shop and parked the bus in front of the goal. However, Barcelona scored six minutes from time through a stunning Gerard Pique strike - although the Catalan defender looked suspiciously offside - and made it tantalisingly exciting.

Bojan Krkic scored late on, but his effort was disallowed, although there was suggestion that it was an incorrect decision. Things turned ugly after the final whistle as sparks began to fly all around but Inter were through to the final 3-2 on aggregate.


THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE FINAL

Bayern Munich 0-2 Inter

Inter had already won the Scudetto and the Coppa Italia, which meant that Mourinho's side now had a great chance to accomplish a historic treble. However, their opponents on Saturday evening Bayern Munich were also going in search of the treble and were expected to be tough nuts to crack.



However, the Beneamata exhibited a professional display at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu in Madrid and won the match 2-0. The star player was a certain Diego Milito, who netted both the goals. The former Genoa striker opened the scoring on 35 minutes and completed his brace in the 70th minute.



The triumph over Bayern Munich meant that Inter ended their 45-year European Cup drought and finally win the trophy club supremo Massimo Moratti had long wanted to. Jose Mourinho also became the third coach to win the Champions League with two different clubs, following Ernst Happel and Ottmar Hitzfeld.

Saturday May 22, 2010 will forever be etched in the memory of all Inter fans.

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