Friday 24 January 2020

Special One's ice-cool exterior as Nerazzurri draw first blood against side made of his DNA

Jason Burt

JOSE MOURINHO was always going to do one of two things when Inter Milan scored last night. He was either going to 'crazy horse' it around the technical area, perhaps with a well-executed knee slide to cap it off, or he was going to sit motionless in the dugout. He sat motionless in the dugout. For both goals.

It is his way. A contrarian. Maybe he also knew, with two minutes and 43 seconds on the clock of a two-legged tie, Inter got lucky with their first goal. And the second came soon after Chelsea had equalised.

Diego Milito's strike for the first goal was accomplished but owed much to Chelsea's lax defending. They sat off, he scored. Mourinho would have been as stunned as Carlo Ancelotti. Maybe that explained his inertia.

Perhaps he also recognised that there was a long way to go and that it would not be until after Chelsea had peppered the Inter goal with six shots on target, and struck the woodwork, that his team would be provided with another opportunity -- and that was fluffed by a player who had drawn the Special One's anger during the intervening period with his apparent lack of effort, Samuel Eto'o.

Inter are Mourinho's team -- he made great play of the crossed-out faces on the squad picture from the last campaign -- and performers such as Eto'o, Milito and Wesley Sneijder were acquired by him.

They are also a team in his professional image. Organised, committed, functional and intense -- but with little poetry. There is a deep emphasis on a defensive base built around two uncompromising centre-halves and full-backs who are able to attack. In essence it is almost a seven-three formation, with Sneijder the only attacking force behind the two strikers. The primary duty of everyone else is to defend.

That would have been Ancelotti's concern. His team needed one goal and maybe two -- and they should have had the opportunity from the penalty spot when Salomon Kalou was brought down towards half-time. So there was unrestrained relief when the Ivorian, preferred ahead of Joe Cole, who would have been crushed to be omitted with Fabio Capello in the stadium, struck soon into the second half.

Until then, Inter had been obdurate and a little irritating; a bit like Mourinho, but without his panache. They were a reincarnation of Chelsea sides from the middle part of his tenure at Stamford Bridge.

He could also lay rightful claim to being the architect of the team Ancelotti fielded. Six of the Chelsea players were signed by Mourinho; three he inherited and only two post-dated him. Chelsea took his DNA on to the pitch, more even than Inter.

Mourinho made his controversial 'handcuffs' gesture at the weekend but he was intent on trying to shackle this game. Maicon, so keen to attack, was waved back, ordered to keep tight to Nicolas Anelka, and Inter went forward only sporadically. Mourinho was even irritated by a forward pass from Sneijder to Milito inside the Chelsea penalty area because the Argentinian was isolated.

Interestingly, once Esteban Cambiasso scored Inter's second to restore their lead, Mourinho became bolder. Having prepared McDonald Mariga to come on, he changed to the more attack-minded Mario Balotelli, withdrawing Thiago Motta. Mourinho is often more daring with his substitutions than his starting line-ups and with Chelsea chasing, the game opened up more.

Ancelotti -- who stood throughout -- sensed it also. He sent on Daniel Sturridge -- not Cole -- and went in search of an equalising goal. After all, he did not want to leave the stadium he too had called home for so long in defeat. The imposing Guiseppe Meazza stadium was his domain and despite Mourinho being in situ, there is, to the latter's undoubted annoyance, a greater reverence towards Ancelotti. Although perhaps not among the Nerazzurri, who whistled his name.

There is the feud, of course, the vendetta. The tit-for-tat and back-chat between the two managers has continued for two years. In a sense the rivalry is understandable. Ancelotti may seem significantly older but, at 50 to Mourinho's 47, they are two of the -- if not the two -- outstanding coaches of their generation. There was a lot at stake.

And now it is finely, deliciously poised for Mourinho's return to Stamford Bridge next month. He would not want it any other way. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

The Left Wing: Schools rugby special - 'The St Michael’s dream team are the side to beat'

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport