Why Inter-Bayern Munich Was One Of The All-Time Epic Champions League Clashes

A Samuel Eto'o-inspired Inter knocked Bayern out of the Champions League in one of the most absorbing matches in the competition's history.

If you didn’t watch Inter’s pulsating Champions League victory over Bayern Munich last night, then check your local listings for a repeat showing. In an age when the phrase ‘football was the real winner’ has become a worn old cliche, this was a match which came as close to justifying such a statement as anything can. After living on the edge for much of the tie, the Nerazzurri progressed to the quarter-finals for the second year running having been hoisted onto the shoulders of Samuel Eto’o in their hour of need.


Eto'o led a list of key players who helped swing the match this way and that
Samuel Eto'o
The performance that confirms him as a Champions League great
Wesley Sneijder Dropped deeper than usual to shake off Luiz Gustavo and dictate Inter's breaks
Mario Gomez Poaching of the highest order once more by Julio Cesar's nemesis
Arjen Robben Added two more assists as he terrorised Chivu, but his exit swung the tie again
Goran Pandev
The dogged hero who kept going to the last, and got his glorious reward

The Cameroonian’s early opener, holding his run to perfection before slotting home from Pandev’s pass, laid the platform for a convincing opening 20 minutes from the visitors, but after Arjen Robben-enforced errors by Julio Cesar (again) and Thiago Motta had been punished, FC Hollywood failed to put the game to bed during a period when it seemed simply a question of how many they would romp home by. Chances came and went for the hosts, but for as long as the scoreline remained 2-1 they were always living dangerously, especially given their own backline issues.

At San Siro, Eto’o had almost been a one-man attack for the Biscione, probing and harassing to no avail as he was left to fight off two and three-man challenges all alone. Last night he got greater reward for his efforts, as he turned in the kind of performance which proves once and for all that Inter got the better end of the deal which saw him arrive at Appiano Gentile from Barcelona two summers ago.

With the Rekordmeister still looking for that killer third goal and Leonardo’s side needing to score twice, the second half more than lived up to the first. Philippe Coutinho came on for the injured Dejan Stankovic, but when Arjen Robben departed it was Hamit Altintop who replaced him. Inter’s was the more attacking of the changes and they got their reward when Coutinho fed Eto’o, who took a touch before laying the ball on a plate for the advancing Wesley Sneijder. One goal in it, and Bayern were nervous.

Just as it seemed Inter’s chance had gone, Sneijder lofted a ball forward which Eto’o refused to give up on. He beat Breno for strength before holding on long enough to give Pandev the chance to get into a position from which he could lash home the winner. The finish was as perfect as the pass, as perfect as the match. A real barnstormer.

Forget the defensive woes, this was a game of attacking football for the ages. Die Roten caused problems with their speed of thought and movement out wide, Inter with their precise build-up and ballsy counter-attacks. It was one of the perfect examples of contrasting styles making for absorbing football.

And at the end there was Eto’o. When Pandev’s winner hit the back of the net, the Macedonian wheeled away in delight while his partner in crime simply stood in the same spot from which he had delivered the pass. He did not move. It may well have been the only time in the whole game he stood still. Maybe he was getting a head start on saving some energy for the Champions League quarter-final he has to come. Given his form and his record in the competition, he could yet inspire Inter to another final come May 28.

FIVE GREAT CHAMPIONS LEAGUE TIES

Real Madrid - Manchester United
2003 (3-1, 3-4)

Madrid dominated at the Bernabeu, but Van Nistelrooy’s away goal gave United hope. At Old Trafford, Ronaldo produced probably the greatest ever Champions League hat-trick to wrap up the tie despite a gutsy United effort.

Real Madrid - Monaco
2004 (4-2, 1-3)

Fernando Morientes scored home and away against his parent club as Madrid were pegged back from 4-1 and 5-2 aggregate leads to crash out on away goals thanks to Ludovic Giuly’s double.

Milan - Deportivo La Coruna
2004 (4-1, 0-4)

Having lost 4-1 at San Siro, Depor destroyed champions Milan at the Riazor. Fran’s late goal settled it after Pandiani, Valeron and Luque had put the Spaniards ahead on away goals.

Barcelona - Chelsea
2005 (2-1, 2-4)

Didier Drogba’s first-leg red card seemed to have swung the tie, but a three-goal first half burst at Stamford Bridge and John Terry’s late header meant Ronaldinho’s classic double was in vain.
Inter - Bayern Munich
2011 (0-1, 3-2)

Mario Gomez’s away goal was canceled out by Samuel Eto’o, but Gomez and Thomas Mueller put Bayern in command. Sneijder and Pandev snatched a dramatic late win for the holders.

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