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 away leg 2-0.
On a huge night for Italian football at the San Siro, Inter took command within 11 minutes as Dzeko and Mkhitaryan struck.
The hosts had suffered a big blow even before kick-off when Rafael Leao was ruled out after failing to recover from a thigh injury – and his influence was missed, with Inter full of intent and punch during a devastating first-half performance.
Inter could have led by a greater margin had VAR not controversially overturned an on-field penalty decision for a foul by Simon Kjaer on the excellent Lautaro Martinez despite there looking to be clear contact on the forward.
AC Milan improved after the break – they could not have played any worse – but only a Sandro Tonali effort which clipped the post truly tested a confident and assured Inter, who always carried a threat on the break.
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 either 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)
Subs: Kalulu (6), Origi (6), Thiaw (6), Messias (6), Pobega (6)
Inter Milan: Onana (7), Darmian (7), Acerbi (7), Bastoni (7), Dumfries (8), Barella (8), Calhanoglu (7), Mkhitaryan (8), Dimarco (7), Martinez (8), Dzeko (8)
Subs: Gagliardini (7), De Vrij (7), Correa (7), Lukaku (7), Brozovic (7)
Player of the match: Lautoro Martinez
Blistering Inter blow away 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 hurled flares on to the pitch.
- Alexis Saelemakers started in Rafael Leao place. Elsewhere, there were starts 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, blowing away their rivals with a blistering start.
They were ahead after just eight minutes when former Manchester City striker Dzeko got free from a corner and thrashed a volley from 12 yards past the helpless Mike Maignan in the Milan goal.
It was 2-0 moments later.
An attack down the left found the onrushing Mkhitaryan, who marched through the Milan defence and finished nicely into the corner.
Hakan Calhanoglu then lashed a 25-yard strike against a post, before Maignan blocked Mkhitaryan’s effort 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 penalty in the 31st minute as Martinez went down under a challenge from Kjaer. But Spanish referee Jesus Gil Manzano was asked to review his decision by the VAR and decided to overturn his original call.
Milan responded after the break as Brahim Diaz curled just wide from 20 yards and Junior Messias wasted a great chance when through on goal.
Tonali’s strike then cannoned off the base of the left post as it felt like a night where nothing was dropping for the home side.
This was Inter Milan’s night. The final is in touching distance.
Tomori: There was anxiety in the team
AC Milan defender Fikayo Tomori speaking to BT Sport:
“We’re obviously disappointed. Just the way we started the game, conceding two early goals like that. The first one from a corner and then straight after. It’s difficult when it’s 0-0 but to go two goals down in the first 15 minutes is a kick in the teeth.
“It took us a while to get back in the game. There was a bit of anxiety in the team. In a game like this you can’t do that.
“It’s only the first game. We can’t let our heads drop. We know if we play with the right intensity if we had got the last pass or last shot with just a bit more determination or anger, then we could have scored.
“We’re disappointed but we can’t dwell on it. We have to move onto the next game.”
Dzeko: It’s a great result
Dzeko speaking to BT Sport:
“It feels very good, especially because it’s a derby. We played away on paper. It’s a great result for us.
“Sometimes you get in this difficult moment where the ball doesn’t want to go in. Patience and work always pays off. I was calm knowing the goals would come as always. Today is the proof.
“I don’t think so [that they’ll get carried away] because we’re an experienced team. We know what we’ve done today. We have got a great result but nothing is yet finished. In the Champions League only great teams arrive in the semi-finals so we have to be careful and concentrate like today.”
AC Milan’s next game is away to Spezia in Serie A on Saturday – kick-off 5pm.
Before their rematch with Milan, Inter host Sassuolo in Serie A on Saturday – kick-off 7.45pm.
Opta stats: Deadly Dzeko
- Dzeko has scored in all three of his UEFA Champions League semi-final appearances, also scoring in both legs 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 vs Schalke (37 years, 148 days).
- Internazionale have beaten rivals Milan three times in all competitions in a 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 has then failed to progress to the final, with Barcelona doing so in 2018-19 vs Liverpool (3-0 first leg, 0-4 second leg).
- Tomori became only the third English player to appear in a UEFA Champions League semi-final for a non-English club, along with Steve McManaman (1999-00 – 2002-03 with Real Madrid) and Owen Hargreaves (2000-01, Bayern Munich).