Inter Milan coach Jose Mourinho described his team's qualification for the UEFA Champions League final as the greatest moment of his life.
Inter beat Barcelona 3-2 on aggregate in their semi-final despite losing the second leg 1-0 and playing an hour of the game at the Nou Camp with 10 men. Mourinho's Inter, who won the first game 3-1 last week, will face Bayern Munich in the final on May 22 in Madrid.
"It's the greatest moment of my career," said Mourinho afterwards. "For the players, me, the fans, it's the greatest."
Despite Gerard Pique's 84th-minute goal, defending champions Barcelona were unable to find the crucial second goal as 10-man Inter held on, breathing a sigh of relief when Bojan Krkic had a stoppage-time effort chalked off for handball.
We have five games left in all competitions. Tonight we will party, tomorrow we will sleep and after that prepare to face Lazio on Sunday.
Inter will be playing in their first European Cup final since 1972 while Mourinho will attempt to lead the Italian giants to Europe's most prestigious prize for the first time since 1965.
"It's been 38 years since Inter played in the final. This is not a team of young players who can wait 15 years to make the final - they will not have another 10 opportunities to play in one," he said. "Against Barcelona, it's difficult with 11 players but with 10, it's an historic achievement to win like this. It's the most beautiful defeat of my life."
More to play for
Mourinho's side survived the first half dismissal of Thiago Motta to blunt Barcelona's famous cutting edge where even Lionel Messi, with the exception of one first-half chance, was largely anonymous. "The season doesn't finish here," warned Mourinho, whose team are also in pole position to defend their Italian league title.
"We have five games left in all competitions. Tonight we will party, tomorrow we will sleep and after that prepare to face Lazio on Sunday," said Mourinho. "I ask the fans for another favour - come to Milan airport and welcome this splendid team home. Come to Rome on Sunday for the game with Lazio and then come to the Italian Cup final next Wednesday.
"I was close to the fans when I was at Chelsea, but I am even closer to the Inter fans. I love Inter and the supporters, but not Italian football. I respect it, but I don't love it," he added.
Inter's Dutch midfielder Wesley Sneijder paid tribute to Mourinho. "The coach was screaming in the dressing room, it was very emotional," he said. "We defended with 10 men for so long. We were compact, fought for every metre and gave everything. Mourinho always gets his tactics right to destroy the opponents. We did it in Milan and we did it again tonight but in a different way."
Today, it was our turn to suffer the cruel side of football. Now we must recover our morale for La Liga.
Barcelona president Joan Laporta appealed to the fans to get behind the team in their darkest hour. "Today, it was our turn to suffer the cruel side of football," said Laporta.
"Now we must recover our morale for La Liga (where Barcelona are battling Real Madrid for the title). Now, more than ever, we have to support this team. I expected Inter to be defensive. It was hard to break down their two defensive lines. They made it very hard for us."
Inter Milan midfielder Javier Zanetti praised the character of his side after they overcame an intimidating atmosphere at the Nou Camp. "This result was down to the spirit we have. We worked hard to deal with the tough reception that we received and we were able to cope. Now we are in the final and we can concentrate on that," said the Argentine.
Inter striker Samuel Eto'o admitted it took something special to beat the side he left last summer. "It was extremely difficult and it felt like it was never going to end but we always knew what we wanted and how to beat a fantastic team like Barcelona. We managed to win against the best team in the world."