Inter, Milan met in another CL semifinal 20 years ago
MILAN — Inter Milan and AC Milan are gearing up for another “Euroderby,” almost exactly 20 years on from the last time the two storied Italian teams met in another Champions League semifinal.
Back then, Italian teams were dominating European soccer. But this is Inter’s first chance to get back into the final since it won an unprecedented treble of the league, Italian Cup and Champions League under José Mourinho in 2010.
Milan won the last of its seven titles in 2007.
It also won the Champions League in 2003, advancing past Inter on away goals in the semifinals and going on to beat Juventus in the final.
Both Milan teams share the iconic San Siro stadium but Inter was the nominal host for the second leg that time, which ended 1-1. The first match was a goalless draw.
“Those were the worst days of my long football life,” former Milan defender Alessandro Costacurta said about the period leading up to the matches. “I was already 37, I was experienced and I didn’t have to deal with performance anxiety. But it was impossible not to think constantly about those games.”
The away goals rule has been scrapped this season so if the two teams are tied on aggregate at the end of the second leg, it will go to extra time and then penalties.
The first leg is on Wednesday, with the return match the following Tuesday.
Milan also beat Inter in the 2005 quarterfinals and again made it all the way to the final in Istanbul but lost on penalties to Liverpool after leading 3-0 at halftime.
This year’s final will also be held in Istanbul.
Inter’s coach in 2003 was Héctor Cúper, while Carlo Ancelotti was in charge at Milan.
Both were in their second season at the clubs and both were under pressure.
Inter had come close to winning the league title the previous season but lost on the final day of the season and Juventus snatched the crown.
Inter also finished second in Serie A in 2003, after the Champions League semifinal loss, and Cúper was fired the following season after just eight matches.
The 67-year-old Cúper has never won a trophy since and is currently in charge of Syria's national team. Cúper had previously steered Valencia to two successive Champions League runner-up spots, in 2000 and 2001.
In contrast, Ancelotti has had a glittering career since that 2003 semifinal and is also in the final four of this season’s Champions League as his Real Madrid team takes on Manchester City.
Ancelotti had joined Milan after two second-place finishes with Juventus in Serie A.
After leading Milan to the Champions League trophy in 2003, he steered the Rossoneri to the Serie A title the following year before more European success in 2007.
Ancelotti has won the Champions League two times since then with Real Madrid.
Both teams were packed with expectional players.
Milan had a star-studded midfield of Andrea Pirlo, Clarence Seedorf, Rui Costa and the tireless Gennaro Gattuso, in front of one of the best defensive units of all time in Paolo Maldini, Alessandro Nesta and Costacurta.
Up front it had Andriy Shevchenko and Filippo Inzaghi — the brother of current Inter coach Simone Inzaghi.
Inter also had great players in the likes of defenders Javier Zanetti, Fabio Cannavaro, Marco Materazzi and Hernán Crespo.
Both Maldini and Zanetti are current directors of Milan and Inter.
“I cried in the dressing room afterwards,” Zanetti said. “And I remember the first ones to hug me were Maldini, Costacurta and Ancelotti.
“They were stellar derby matches.”
GOALS AND NEAR MISSES
Shevchenko scored the crucial away goal for Milan in the second leg, on the stroke of halftime.
Substitute Obafemi Martins leveled with six minutes remaining and Inter came close to snatching the victory that would have sent it through.
Mohammed Kallon, another Inter substitute, found himself with only Christian Abbiati to beat but the Milan goalkeeper somehow managed to parry his shot with a knee.
“If there is one game I would like to play again, it is that derby in 2003,” Kallon said after his retirement.
Abbiati was only playing because regular goalkeeper Dida was injured.
“The one from Kallon will remain the most important save I made in a derby in my entire career,” Abbiati said.