Jose Mourinho the cat who got the cream after 1-0 second leg victory...
In no particular order, here are the top ten reasons for the exit:
1. Carlo Ancelotti's predictable tactics
Partly through necessity, partly through lack of invention, Carlo Ancelotti was always up against it in the first leg as injuries ravaged his squad and forced him to play Florent Malouda at left-back. But in the second leg he had more options at his disposal, and Jose Mourinho still managed to anticipate how Chelsea would line-up and adapt his XI accordingly. Consequently Lampard and Ballack were kept quiet in the centre, while Ivanovic and Zhirkov were tested constantly as the 'Special One' played four attack-minded players and pegged the Blues back.
2. Michael Essien was sorely missed
Against West Ham at the weekend John Obi Mikel was exceptional, but against Inter he was found to be clumsy and under par, an attacking midfielder caught in a defensive minded role. Wesley Sneijder dominated him in both legs — if Michael Essien had been available that would not have happened. He has the energy and urgency that is invaluable in Europe.
3. Poor refereeing decisions
The first leg saw Manuel Mejuto Gonzalez make a real howler, denying Salomon Kalou one of the clearest penalties you will ever see. In the second leg Wolfgang Stark made less high profile calls, but Didier Drogba could have had a penalty and in general, all the debatable calls tended to go in favour of the Italians. No scandals, by any means - no Obrevo moments - but enough to leave Chelsea fans feeling a little aggrieved.
4. Strong defensive unit exposed as weak individuals
Partly down to Mourinho's masterful tactics, but partly due to a slight lack in quality. In the first leg John Terry was exposed, allowing Milito in to score an early opener that set the tone for the rest of the tie. In the second leg the mistakes were more obvious — Terry was decent but nothing more, while Alex played onside Eto'o for his decisive goal and the usually so reliable Branislav Ivanovic let the former Barcelona man run off him into the clear. All of the back four, including stand-in left-back Yuri Zhirkov, looked a little nervy when being run at by Inter's forwards. A consolation is that a relatively untroubled Ross Turnbull put in a nerveless and faultless display.
5. Poor reaction to adversity
It afflicted them last season against Barcelona, as Tom Henning Ovrebo's refusal to give penalties they felt they deserved riled them up and distracted them from the job in hand.
The same scenario occurred again this season, as Drogba found himself moaning at the referee during the first half and Terry once again left the pitch at the end of the game fuming at the perceived slights against his side. Chelsea are very close to developing a referring complex on big European nights, and rather than channel that into an improved performance it seems to drain them of all quality and make defeat almost inevitable.
6. Big players and little performances
Perhaps the biggest difference of all. Jot down the most impressive players of both legs, and all of them come from the Italian side. Wesley Sneijder was head and shoulders above anyone else as a creative midfielder — if he had been on the other side the scoreline might have been reversed.
In defence, Lucio put a masterclass in finding room in his pocket to keep Drogba. In contrast, Terry and Lampard both failed to really make an impact. Only Malouda emerged from credit after a willing performance in the first leg and a few classy moments tonight. But that won't win you big games against one of Europe's best sides.
7. Ancelotti failed to make any impact with his substitutions
His starting 4-3-3 formation might have been predictable, but it was technically sound and should have given his side the tools to win the game. But once Mourinho predicted his move on the chess board of football, Ancelotti found it impossible to respond with impactful substitutions or tactical changes. Joe Cole's introduction made little impact, only serving to weaken Chelsea defensively and give Zanetti a chance to shine. Salomon Kalou's introduction was a shot in the dark that rarely looked like working.
What would Mourinho have done? Who knows. But judging by his performance in the other dugout, it would have been more dramatic — and it probably would have worked.
8. The curious case of Nicolas Anelka
For most of the season, Drogba has either had Anelka alongside him, or when on his own, has faced defenders woefully inferior in quality. Consequently, he has bullied and battered them in what has so far been a fantastic season. But against Inter he was shackled with some ease by Lucio and Walter Samuel, who showed themselves as one of the most effective double acts since Laurel and Hardy.
What he desperately needed was support, a decoy who could distract attention and even up the fight. But Anelka found himself stranded out on the right, unable to influence the game in any meaningful way. The Frenchman, so spectacular to start the season, was arguably the biggest disappointment of the tie. Ancelotti will have to re-evaluate how he utilises his two world-class front-men for future tests. That being said, when Anelka did find himself in more inviting situations, he lacked the sharpness to make any discernable difference to the tie.
9. Lack of continual investment in the side turned squad stale
Roman Abramovich's recent plea for self-sufficiency might be laudable, but tonight's result makes it look somewhat foolish. The purchase of the likes of Drogba, Lampard, Cech, Ballack and Essien might have helped the Blues to league titles in 2005 and 2006, but now those same players are getting old and battle-scarred.
Where tonight an injection of youth and vigour — a Sergio Aguero, or Alexandre Pato — might have changed the course of the game, instead Ancelotti had to look to the likes of Kalou and Cole, two players who have stagnated at the club in recent times.
If Abramovich really wants to win the Champions League, summer reinvestment has to become a top priority. Right now, this is a great but ageing team that is only going to get worse.
10. The Jose Mourinho effect
In the end, you can't get away from the Special One. If nothing else, the constant questions before the game about their former manager must have drained the Chelsea players, and for all their proclaimations that they were purely focused on winning, the slack defending and constant snarling at the referee suggested they had been affected by the tale of the two managers.
But that is not where Mourinho's effect ended. In the first leg he exploited Chelsea's injury problems to snatch an unlikely advantage, and then put on nothing short of a managerial tour du force at Stamford Bridge in front of his former disciples, anticipating Ancelotti's every move and coming up with the anecdote.
Eto'o's late goal may have sealed the tie, but Mourinho's tactics had long made Inter's progression seemed likely. If he had lost, he might well have lost his title — but once again Jose reminded us why he is the Special One.