F.C. Internazionale Milano put their recent problems behind them to see off Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma F.C. 3-0 at the Zayed Sports City Stadium and set up a final showdown with TP Mazembe Englebert. Despite the Koreans’ spirit and energy, this was a comfortable and morale-boosting evening for Rafael Benitez’s under-pressure side, who coasted to victory thanks to goals from Dejan Stankovic, Javier Zanetti and Diego Milito.
Ironically, however, a match that brought so much relief and satisfaction to Inter began in disastrous fashion, with Wesley Sneijder picking up an injury inside the first minute that forced him to withdraw from the fray. The loss of their talismanic Dutch midfielder did not faze the Italians though, and with three minutes played and Sneijder’s replacement still yet to be introduced, they raced into an early lead. Dejan Stankovic was the scorer, bustling through the Seongnam defence and side-footing into the bottom corner, although the goal owed much to the industrious approach play of Samuel Eto’o and Diego Milito.
This, of course, was just the kind of start that Seongnam had hoped to avoid, and the opening half hour offered little encouragement for the Asian champions as their strikers struggled to make headway against Inter’s powerful central defensive pairing of Lucio and Ivan Cordoba. Then, with 32 minutes played, Shin Tae Yong’s side’s position became even more precarious as the deficit was doubled.
In truth, all the Koreans could do was stand back and admire as Javier Zanetti scored a goal of genuine class, galloping forward from right-back, playing the ball into Diego Milito, receiving a delightful back-heel in return and slipping a first-time shot under the advancing Jung Sung-Ryong. This was the kind of football that helped win I Nerazzurri that historic treble of domestic and European trophies earlier this year, and it left Seongnam with a veritable mountain to climb.
However, Shin has built a team made of stern stuff and they succeeded in creating several decent chances as the first half drew to a close, all of which were heavily indebted to the dead-ball expertise of Mauricio Molina. Twice in six minutes, the Colombian’s free-kicks set up headed chances for team-mates, the first of which saw Dzenan Radoncic force Julio Cesar into a solid save before Cho Byung-Kuk put the second wide of the right-hand post.
Then, in first half stoppage time, Molina went for goal himself, curling a left-foot shot around the wall and just wide of Julio Cesar’s right post from 20 yards. Opportunities were generally few and far between in this match though, and this remained the case after the re-start.
Sadly for Seongnam, what few chances they had went begging, with Choi Sung-Kuk blasting over two minutes into the second half and Jo Jae-Cheol just off target with a curling shot from 25 yards. Inter, for their part, were happy to slow down the tempo whenever possible, and they continued to prove ruthlessly efficient in front of goal.
Any lingering doubts over the outcome were removed with 17 minutes remaining, when Diego Milito rounded off a thoroughly gratifying night’s work for the European champions by scrambling home at the second attempt after Samuel Eto’o’s initial effort had been blocked.