Jose Mourinho says he has never experienced such a beautiful loss in his soccer career.
The Inter Milan coach sprinted across the field to salute the team’s fans as it lost 1-0 at Barcelona last night to win their two-game Champions League semifinal 3-2. Inter will play Bayern Munich in the May 22 final.
Barcelona, willed on by a 96,214 sellout crowd at its Nou Camp stadium, had 76 percent of possession and 15 shots though didn’t score until the 84th minute when Gerard Pique turned two defenders and shot into an empty net. Inter played with 10 men for an hour after Thiago Motta was red-carded.
“It’s the most beautiful defeat of my life,” Mourinho told reporters. “A team without character would have lost 3-0 or 4-0 but we held strong.”
Inter ended Barcelona’s bid to win back-to-back titles and qualified for the final of Europe’s elite club competition for the first time since 1972, when it lost to Ajax. It won the European Cup in 1964 and 1965.
A third title would help it further step out of the shadow of AC Milan, which won seven of its eight European Cups since its city rival’s last success. Inter won the past four Italian league championships and leads the standings.
Protecting a two-goal lead last night, Inter became more defensive when Motta was sent off after 28 minutes for pushing Sergio Busquets in the face, his second yellow-card offense.
“With 10 players our chance of attacking was practically zero,” Mourinho said. “The ball was theirs.”
Motta, a former Barcelona player, remonstrated with Busquets and was held back by Inter staff as he left the field. Before the match, Motta had accused Barcelona players of feigning injury to win free kicks.
The Brazilian, like Bayern’s Franck Ribery, will be suspended for the final at Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu stadium.
As happened in the first game, Inter pressed Barcelona into mistakes and only allowed world player of the year Lionel Messi to dart into the penalty box once. Midfielder Esteban Cambiasso dispossessed his fellow Argentine several times.
“We tried to attack but we had trouble,” Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola told reporters. “I’m not disappointed because we tried everything.”
Bojan Krkic, who put a second-half header wide from about five yards out, had a goal disallowed in injury time because of a handball against Yaya Toure. Had the goal stood, Barcelona would have been ahead on away goals following last week’s 3-1 loss in Italy.
It was the fourth meeting between the teams this season after they were paired in the group stage. Inter finished runner-up to Barcelona before beating Chelsea and CSKA Moscow to get to the final four for the first time in seven years.
Barcelona failed to become the first team since AC Milan in 1990 to win consecutive elite European titles and had its trophy hunt scaled back to the Spanish league, which it leads by one point from Real Madrid.
Last season, it won all six competitions it entered.
“Our fans maybe feel a bit more disappointed than usual because we’ve had such success the last 11 months,” Guardiola said. “But it’s not a failure” to reach the Champions League semifinal, he added.
Mourinho, who led Porto to the 2004 title, had an altercation with Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes as he shook his fists at the end. Valdes wrongly thought the Inter coach was taunting home fans, Mourinho said.
“I’m a terrible loser and so are they,” Mourinho said. “Whoever wins a lot is like that.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Alex Duff at the Nou Camp stadium, Barcelona, at firstname.lastname@example.org