EMOTIONAL Jose Mourinho saw his Inter Milan side dump holders Barcelona out of the Champions League last night – and then described it as the best victory of his life.
The former Chelsea boss spoke of his pride after leading the Nerazzurri to their first European final since 1972, despite playing for over an hour with just ten men.
Protecting a 3-1 first-leg lead, Mourinho must have thought the game was up when Thiago Motta saw red for a raised arm on Sergio Busquets.
But in true, traditional Italian style, Inter frustrated Barca, and in particular, star man Lionel Messi, with a solid defensive rearguard and held on for victory despite Gerard Pique finally finding a way through seven minutes from time to set up a frantic finish.
It means Inter now face Bayern Munich at the Bernabeu on 22 May in an attempt to claim Europe’s top prize for the first time since 1965.
And Mourinho described it as the best moment of his life – even more than when he won the trophy himself with Porto in 2004.
“With 10 versus 11 it was historic,” the Portuguese said. “The defeat was the best of my life, but I think this team deserved to draw 0-0. Julio Cesar has had an amazing game, it seemed we were in equal numbers.
“It is an incredible joy. I have already won a Champions League but today was even better. We were a team of heroes. We sweated blood. I thank everyone who played and who did not play. I thank all the fans, those who were here and those who remained at home. Absolutely incredible things happened. Now is our festival. I want the fans at the airport waiting for these guys.”
Labelled “The Translator” in these parts as a mocking testimony to his time at Barca in the 1990’s, Mourinho played the pantomime villain, often riling the Barca bench and fans throughout the game before racing onto the pitch in triumph at the end.
Indeed, Mourinho caught everyone by surprise even before a ball was kicked, replacing apparently injured striker Goran Pandev with defender Christian Chivu in the warm-up.
Motta’s sending-off on 28 minutes was harsh to say the least and, from then on, Inter were forced to defend in numbers as Barca piled forward.
Cesar saved well from Lionel Messi, before Bojan headed a great chance wide. But the advanced Pique showed him just how it’s done when collecting Xavi’s pass and foxing Cesar with a neat pirouette before rolling the ball into the empty net to give Barca hope.
But their misery was compounded when Bojan was denied an injury-time equaliser after the referee blew for a handball on Yaya Toure, ensuring the Italians survived.