Eto'o sends Chelsea packing
Inter Milan manager Jose Mourinho got his revenge on Chelsea as a late goal from Samuel Eto'o sealed a 1-0 last 16 second leg victory over his former club at Stamford Bridge for a 3-1 aggregate victory.
Mourinho was back at Chelsea for the first time since being sacked in September 2007 following a power struggle with Blues owner Roman Abramovich, and he showed the Russian what he had let go by devising the perfect game-plan to eliminate his former team.
"This is an important result," the influential Wesley Sneijder said after the win. "Chelsea are one of the biggest teams in the world and to beat them, it's a big step. In Italy it's an important time, but we are still not in the final. We can do it [reach the final] when we play like today, of course we can do it."
The Portuguese coach once criticised Tottenham for "parking the bus" after Chelsea were shut out by their defensive London rivals, but Mourinho borrowed a trick or two from that scheme to keep Carlo Ancelotti's side at bay before Eto'o's strike secured victory. Chelsea, who had Didier Drogba sent off in the final moments, hadn't been held without a goal at home for 11 months, yet they rarely threatened to find a way through an Inter defence superbly marshalled by Lucio and Walter Samuel.
It was a classic Mourinho display as Inter ground the life out of Chelsea and then delivered the killer blow in clinical fashion. At last Mourinho, who disappeared down the tunnel quickly at the end, had his moment of vindication.
Mourinho seemed to enjoy himself from the moment he arrived at the stadium as he signed autographs for Chelsea fans and chatted briefly with Ancelotti before emerging to take up his unfamiliar position on the away bench. He was greeted with respectful applause from the home supporters but it was hardly the rapturous reception many, including Mourinho, had predicted.
Inter needed only a draw to go through and the visitors were content to defend in numbers. The onus was on Chelsea to set the tempo and Ancelotti's team created what few openings there were in a frantic first half. Florent Malouda appealed in vain for a penalty when his incisive run was ended by an uncompromising block from Lucio, while Michael Ballack threatened with a long-range effort that skimmed just wide.
It was heavyweight stuff with the temperature never far from boiling point. Lucio caught Malouda with a dangerously high boot, sparking a shoving match between several players, then Maicon made a superb challenge to stop Drogba getting a shot off as the Chelsea striker prepared to pull the trigger 10 yards out.
Mourinho grew more animated by the minute as he rose from the bench time and again to protest any decisions that went against Inter. Eto'o had a glorious chance to put Inter ahead when Maicon's cross cleared two Chelsea defenders and reached the Cameroon forward at the far post, but his header bounced tamely into the turf and over the bar.
Mourinho buried his head in his hands and Nicolas Anelka nearly made Inter pay for that miss just before half-time. When Drogba's pass reached Anelka six yards out, he twisted to poke his shot goalwards, only for Julio Cesar to make a brave save at the French forward's feet. From the corner, Samuel risked conceding a penalty as he wrestled Drogba to the floor.
Mourinho lost just one game at Stamford Bridge during his three and a half year reign and he was just 45 minutes away from surviving his first as a visitor. Chelsea weren't going out quietly though and Malouda forced Cesar into a smart stop at his near-post early in the second half.
Ancelotti sent on Joe Cole as the Blues began to run out of ideas, but Eto'o put the tie beyond their reach in the 78th minute. Wesley Sneijder had been at the heart of Inter's few attacking moments and he lofted a superb pass towards Eto'o, who held off his marker before driving a low shot past Turnbull.
Mourinho had promised not to celebrate if Inter won, however the moment got the better of him as he leapt to his feet with fists pumping. Chelsea's frustration came to the surface as Drogba was sent off in the final moments after a clash with Thiago Motta to complete a miserable day for the hosts.