MILAN - Inter hold a slender advantage in their UEFA Champions League round of 16 tie against Chelsea as Argentines Diego Milito and Esteban Cambiasso scored either side of Salomon Kalou's goal for a 2-1 victory in Milan.
The Stadio Giuseppe Meazza erupted with less than three minutes on the clock as the Nerazzurri bagged an important early goal. Thiago Motta served Eto'o and an instinctive dummy from Sneijder let the ball roll through to Milito, who turned Terry before firing past a hapless Petr Cech.
The visitors unleashed a barrage of attacks as the Nerazzurri defended their early advantage and Didier Drogba went close with a 30-yard free kick that bounced down off the underside of the crossbar.
Julio Cesar didn't look like a man who had been involved in a car crash three days ago and the Inter keeper pulled off brilliant saves Kalou and Ballack before keeping out a far-post header from Drogba.
José Mourinho's men soaked up the pressure and were presented with a golden chance to increase their lead just past the half-hour when Eto'o miscued in front of goal after a low cross from Sneijder, who moments earlier had forced a punched block from Cech with a dangerous inswinging free kick.
Chelsea were level six minutes after the restart when Kalou fired a low shot off Julio Cesar on its way into into the bottom right corner after a strong run by Ivanovic, but the visiting fans' celebrations were short-lived.
Within four minutes, Cambiasso beat Cech with a stunning low strike. Sneijder's cross was headed away by Carvalho and Cambiasso pounced, seeing his first shot blocked by Terry before crashing home the rebound to put the Nerazzurri deservedly back in front.
Chelsea played the last thirty minutes with Hilario between the posts after Cech was forced off injured, but the Portuguese custodian had hardly a save to make as the Nerazzurri couldn't capitalise on their counter-attacking initiative.
Instead, Julio Cesar had more work to do and he made a crucial save from Lampard's close-range effort from Drogba's cross to protect Inter's lead ahead of next month's return leg at Stamford Bridge.
Inter 2-1 Chelsea (HT: 1-0)
Scorers: Milito 3, Kalou 51, Cambiasso 55.
Inter: 12 Julio Cesar; 13 Maicon, 6 Lucio, 25 Samuel, 4 Zanetti; 5 Stankovic (11 Muntari 84), 19 Cambiasso, 8 Thiago Motta (45 Balotelli 58); 10 Sneijder; 9 Eto'o (27 Pandev 68), 22 Milito.
Subs not used: 1 Toldo, 2 Cordoba, 7 Quaresma, 17 Mariga.
Coach: José Mourinho.
Chelsea: 1 Cech (40 Hilario 62); 2 Ivanovic, 6 Carvalho, 26 Terry, 15 Malouda; 13 Ballack, 12 Mikel, 8 Lampard; 39 Anelka, 21 Kalou (23 Sturridge 78); 11 Drogba.
Subs not used: 10 J.Cole, 33 Alex, 35 Belletti, 43 Bruma, 45 Borini.
Coach: Carlo Ancelotti.
Referee: Manuel Mejuto Gonzalez (Spain).
Booked: Thiago Motta 9, Milito 22, Kalou 23.