MILAN - The final score of the first leg of the UEFA Champions League 2010/11 quarter-final between Inter and Schalke 04 was 2-5.
The match at the Stadio Meazza was solid football, end-to-end attacking without any dead moments. It was a story of two teams but only one of them was able to break through on a night when it all went wrong for Inter. All it took for Stankovic to put the ball into the net was 25 seconds with a right-footed volley from the half-way line. That's how it all started. Then came Matip's lucky equaliser, Milito's effort to take the lead once again and then Edu's goal (2-2) as the Germans came back, and which didn't do justice to a marvellous Julio Cesar. But if the first half was all cut and thrust, worse was to come in the second half: when Raul scored, Ranocchia did too, but an own goal, Chivu was sent off and then Edu netted his second to leave Inter three goals behind and with only 10 men.
FIRST HALF - The Champions League was back and the Meazza's capacity crowd welcomed back Diego Milito, who flanked Eto'o in the attacking duo in front of Sneijder; Zanetti played left back and in midfield we had Stankovic, Motta and Cambiasso.
The Champions League match kicked off and Inter looked like Inter again, with a sizzling goal which Stankovic launched from the centre spot with a right-footed missile after only 25 seconds of play. It came from a ball which Neuer cleared with a header from just ouside his area following a long pass from Cambiasso and Milito's pressing. A goal which will make the statistics books, and the Nerazzurri took the lead 1-0.
Schalke tried to reply in the 5th minute with a cross into the area for Raul whose dive just didn't connect with the ball. He did connect a few minutes later though, meeting Farfan's cross, but Julio Cesar was ready for him and saved in the centre of the goalmouth. Sneijder almost made it two in the 8th minute when he rose to meet Milito's cross, but his header was wide and to the right. Schalke's equaliser came in the 17th minute from a corner, when Julio Cesar pulled off a miraculous save from a Papadopoulos header, the ball broke to Matip who found a gap in the crowded six-yard box to make it 1-1.
Once again it was Julio Cesar who in the 19th minute blocked to avoid the Germans' second goal from Jurado's left-footed volley. A work of art created by Maicon and Eto'o, which the Cameroonian put into the back of the net with a superb back-heel, was ruled offside and the free-kick was taken by Neuer in the 20th minute. In the 23rd minute Milito was pulled up for offside as well, after Sneijder sent him away with a through ball from 25 metres: the TV replay showed that the Argentine was actually onside when the ball was passed. Stankovic wasn't able to play on after a violent clash in the 12th minute with Baumjohann and had to be substituted. Kharja came on for him in the 24th minute.
A lot of suffering and a lot of hard work went into this part of the match but it was worth it when Milito, the Prince, put Inter into the lead again: Zanetti crossed from the right, Sneijder picked up and found Cambiasso whose headed assist was volleyed home by Milito past Neuer to make it 2-1. But Schalke didn't take it sitting down and kept on working until, in the 40th minute, they equalised with Edu, 2-2: assist from Baumjohann, the Brazilian picked up the loose ball after Julio Cesar saved brilliantly, but couldn't hold onto it, and scored from the right-hand side of the six-yard box. In the third minute of injury time Farfan fouled Zanetti to pick up a yellow card and he'll miss the return leg. After 3 minutes of added time the teams were sent into the dressing rooms with the score at 2-2.
SECOND HALF - The second half got underway with the same 22 who had started the match and a chance for Milito who, finding himself with only Neuer to beat, shot narrowly wide off his left instep in the 46th minute. Eto'o tried again a minute later, picking up a pass from Sneijder, dribbling and firing left-footed only to see the ball turned away superbly for a corner by Neuer. A foul on Farfan after 52 minutes resulted in Chivu's first yellow card which meant he would miss the match in Gelsenkirchen. A cross from Farfan and all of Raul's class fooled the Inter defence and he scored to put the Germans back in front after 53 minutes, but Inter lost control at this point as did Ranocchia in the 57th minute when, as he looked to beat Jurado to the ball, he sent it past Julio Cesar to make it 2-4.
It wasn't over yet, though. A foul on Edu led to Chivu's second yellow and he was given his marching orders, leaving Inter with 10 men on the pitch. Inter did manage to drum up a little bit of luck, but all it meant was Jurado's 65th minute shot hit the woodwork. Milito and Sneijder kept pressing forward but the defence thwarted every through ball and it was Schalke who scored again with Edu on 75 minutes: Julio Cesar and the post seemed to have saved Inter's neck but moments later the ball came to the Brazilian, who made it 2-5. The German goalmouth seemed bewitched when, after 93 minutes of play, Eto'o could only manage to send the ball wide as his shot cut across the box.
After three minutes of added time Atkinson blew the whistle to bring the match to a close. Wednesday 13 April is the second leg in Gelsenkirchen, where nothing is impossible.
Inter 2-5 Schalke 04 (HT: 2-2)
Scorers: Stankovic 1, Matip 17, Milito 33, Edu 40, Raul 53, Ranocchia 57, Edu 75.
Inter: 1 Julio Cesar; 13 Maicon, 15 Ranocchia, 26 Chivu, 4 Zanetti; 5 Stankovic (14 Kharja, 24 - 2 Cordoba, 63), 8 Thiago Motta (55 Nagatomo, 76), 19 Cambiasso; 10 Sneijder; 9 Eto'o, 22 Milito.
Unused subs: 12 Castellazzi, 17 Mariga, 23 Materazzi, 27 Pandev.
Schalke 04: 1 Neuer; 22 Uchida, 4 Howedes, 14 Papadoulos , 2 Sarpei; 17 Farfan, 32 Matip, 11 Baumjohann (13 Schmitz, 76), 18 Jurado (31 Draxler, 83); 7 Raul (16 Karimi, 87), 9 Edu.
Unused subs: 33 Schober, 3 Escudero, 5 Plestan, 8 Hao.
Coach: Ralf Ragnick.
Referee: Martin Atkinson (England).
Booked: Stankovic 13, Farfan 48, Chivu 8 and 62, Sarpei 60, Papadopoulos 66, Raul 84.
Sent off: Chivu 62.
Added time: 3 + 3 minutes.