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Conquerors of Barcelona

Inter’s road to the final in Madrid

Any team which had to play Barcelona four times and also duel Chelsea home and away has earned the right to be in the Champions League final. Internazionale’s route to Europe’s showpiece game was certainly not an easy one. Like Bayern, the newly-crowned Italian double winners were unsure almost until the last second whether they would qualify from the group phase before clinching their place in the Round of 16. Thereafter, José Mourinho’s side convincingly hit their stride, culminating in their heroic semi-final performance in Barcelona to keep the reigning European champions at bay while a man down.

The final seemed a long way away as Inter made a stuttering start to their European campaign. After three draws – 0-0 at home to Barcelona, 1-1 at Rubin Kazan and 2-2 against Dynamo Kiev – Mourinho’s men found themselves bottom of Group F at the halfway stage with three points to four for all their group opponents, with just one home game to come.

Turning point in Kiev

A double strike in the closing minutes of Inter’s fourth group match, against Dynamo in Kiev, proved to be a turning point. Four minutes from the end the Ukrainians were leading 1-0 through Andriy Shevchenko, but the visitors turned the game on its head with late goals from Argentine poacher Diego Milito and Dutch midfielder Wesley Sneijder, who had arrived from Real Madrid shortly before the start of the group stage.