Inter Milan will contest the Champions League final next month after Lautaro Martínez’s second-half goal ended the challenge of fierce city rival AC Milan.
Inter’s 1-0 victory in Tuesday’s second-leg semifinal at a rocking San Siro stadium secured a 3-0 aggregate win and a place in the final on June 10.
Simone Inzaghi’s side will now have the chance to become the fourth Inter side to win European soccer’s elite competition and write a new page in the Nerazzurri history books.
Famed coach Helenio Herrera guided Inter to back-to-back European Cup wins in 1964 and 1965. Inter fans then had to wait 45 years for another European Cup title when José Mourinho’s side stunned the continent in 2010.
The second leg was much more of a contest than last week’s tie but, with AC Milan desperately chasing goals, Inter captain Martínez stepped up with a 74th-minute strike to decide the second leg.
The diminutive striker was slipped in by substitute Romelu Lukaku and blasted a driven effort past Mike Maignan at his near post – sending the San Siro into bedlam.
‘The key was the group’
AC Milan defender Fikayo Tomori claimed there “was a bit of anxiety” among the AC ranks during the first leg but Stefano Pioli’s side came out with nothing to lose this time around.
Looking to overturn their deficit, and buoyed by Rafael Leão’s return, the Rossoneri came out all guns blazing.
Brahim Díaz had a glorious opportunity to give his side an early lead but his tame effort was comfortably saved by André Onana.
Shortly after, Leão drove forward with a brilliant solo run, only to see his effort agonizingly roll past the post.
With chances being spurned, Maignan kept his team in the semfinal and made a brilliant save to block Edin Džeko’s first-half header.
Despite their energetic start, AC Milan ran out of gas and Pioli’s side didn’t manage a shot on target following the break and Martínez’s goal ended all hope of a comeback.
“We did a great job in both matches. The key was the group,” goalscorer Martínez told Sky Italia. “I had a similar experience at the World Cup: if you are united, you get to play these very important matches in the best possible way.”
Inter Milan can now prepare for the Champions League final in Istanbul on June 10 where they will face the winner of Wednesday’s semifinal between Real Madrid and Manchester City.
Speaking to Sky Italia, Inter vice-president and former captain, Javier Zanetti said he has a preference for not meeting 14-time European Cup winners, Real.
“I would like to avoid Real Madrid because the competition seems made for them,” explained Inter’s Champions League winning captain in 2010.