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A Special one for Mourinho

Jose Mourinho's vanity is such that he claimed to have two teams illuminating San Siro, although it says much about his ability that both of them are good enough to win the Champions League.

Inter Milan hold a slender advantage after a policy of counterattack was vindicated by Esteban Cambiasso's spectacular winner last night, although Chelsea remain very much in the tie as a result of Salomon Kalou's away goal. The Special One's return to Stamford Bridge next month should live up to his self-styled nickname.

To add to Chelsea's woes, Petr Cech was carried off on a stretcher with a suspected cruciate ligament injury after falling unchallenged in the second half.

Yet if Mourinho had supervised more matches such as this during his time at Chelsea, he could still be living in West London. Roman Abramovich, the owner, has always craved entertainment and he received enough last night to make him reconsider his new-found love of art galleries.

Chelsea dominated possession and had twice as many shots on target, but they were beaten by a craftier and more clinical side, which should come as little surprise given the identity of their coach. Inter also enjoyed better luck, most notably when Kalou was denied a clear penalty at the end of the first half, with Chelsea's misfortune encapsulated by the sight of Cech being carried off.

Carlo Ancelotti had taken a gamble on Florent Malouda at left back to cover for his injury problems there. The France winger had never played at left back before last night and Ancelotti, the Chelsea manager, will have turned to him with great reluctance.

Intriguing

The thoughts of Paulo Ferreira, watching quietly on television at home in Surrey after the club chose not to register him for the Champions League, would have been intriguing.

Mourinho had no such problems, and had the luxury of recalling Samuel Eto'o in place of Goran Pandev. The visiting team's problems at left back will have figured prominently in the Portuguese's thoughts when opting for the Cameroon striker, who frequently troubled Chelsea with his pace while at Barcelona.

With all that energy expounded fretting about their left flank, Ancelotti may have forgotten to discuss protecting Chelsea's right, or that was how it seemed when Inter struck in the third minute with a goal of stunning simplicity.

Eto'o's speculative ball down the channel seemed innocuous enough, but it was too much for Branislav Ivanovic, who was caught hopelessly out of position to present Diego Milito with a sight of goal. The Argentina striker cleverly adjusted his body position to cut inside John Terry and calmly shoot past Cech at his near post.

Mourinho raised his upper lip on the bench in an expression of pure pleasure. Ancelotti's heavy jowls, in contrast, sagged even lower than usual in a look of considerable anxiety rarely seen this season.

Chelsea's defence has seemed shaky all campaign, but some of their attacking play has been scintillating and it was this quality that brought them back into the game.

For long periods, Didier Drogba appeared to be on a one-man mission to get Chelsea through -- he struck the underside of the crossbar with a thunderous free kick and brought a fine save from Julio Cesar in the space of a few seconds in the 15th minute.

Clinical

Chelsea were the better team for much of the match, but a clinical final ball eluded them and, as frustration mounted, they began to resort to shots from distance.

It is a source of much angst to Chelsea fans that the ball often appears to be magnetically attracted to Kalou, who seems to have little idea what to do with it. The Ivory Coast striker was characteristically wasteful on several occasions as he shot straight at Cesar and headed wide, but he should have been awarded a penalty on the stroke of half-time that would have altered the complexion of the tie.

After beating Walter Samuel for pace to collect Ivanovic's quickly taken throw-in, he maintained his composure to get a sight of goal, only to be brought down by a desperate lunge from the Argentine defender. Unlike Milito's appeal when Ricardo Carvalho stuck out a trailing leg at the other end earlier in the half, there was definitely contact, and Chelsea had every right to feel aggrieved. They may point to such decisions as the reason why they harbour an unhealthy suspicion of UEFA referees.

Chelsea did not linger long on their disappointment, however, and, fired up by Ancelotti's half-time team talk, responded with a 51st-minute equaliser whose creation surprised everyone, even Mourinho.

Ivanovic carried the ball from his own half with the kind of rampaging run more often associated with his opposite number, Maicon, before laying it off with a desperate lunge to Kalou, who hit the ball first time past Cesar. The goalkeeper should have done better.

Problems

Kalou's joy proved short-lived, as Inter were celebrating again four minutes later after a wonderful goal from Cambiasso worthy of winning any game. Wesley Sneijder's cross from the left was headed clear by Carvalho, but only as far as Cambiasso. The Artentinian's left-foot volley was blocked by Ivanovic, only for the midfield player to thump the ball past Cech from the same position at the second attempt.

Chelsea's problems worsened when Cech was replaced by Hilario, but Frank Lampard brought a good save from Cesar with a volley in the 65th minute and shot wide in injury time. Other than that, a second equaliser never looked like coming.

Mourinho demonstrated his considerable chutzpah by sending on Mario Balotelli in place of Thiago Motta as an additional striker to try to stretch Inter's advantage, but conceding a third goal would have been cruel for Chelsea. The stage is set for an epic encounter in three weeks' time.


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