Milito sets up two and scores one as Nerazzurri outclass European champions in semi-final first leg

MILAN - The Nerazzurri produced the perfect performance against Barcelona, coming from behind to beat the reigning European champions 3-1 in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final.

All the pre-match hype was about how to stop Lionel Messi but it was Diego Milito who did the damage with two assists and a goal at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza to give Inter a healthy two-goal cushion going into next Wednesday's return leg. 

José Mourinho's men can travel to Spain brimming with confidence after setting a new club record of six consecutive victories in Europe's elite competition.

The Portuguese tactician kept faith with the eleven starters who defeated Juventus last Friday and he was rewarded with a display that will long be remembered by the 79,609 fans who packed the stadium for the occasion.

In the opening exchanges Eto'o tested Valdes and Milito sent his follow-up wide after a couple of strange offside decisions by the match officials.

Inter were punished a minute later when ex-Nerazzurri defender Maxwell raced past Cambiasso and pulled back his cross to Pedro to slam home from just inside the area.

The hosts rallied and Milito went close again before setting up Sneijder for the equaliser. Eto'o crossed low to his strike partner and the Prince served Sneijder, who, totally unmarked in the area, saw his right-footed shot go in off Valdes' outstretched leg.

Wesley's goal gave us the confidence we needed and the boys made the perfect start to the second half when Maicon met Milito's short pass and shrugged off a challenge from Keita before slotting a low shot beyond Valdes and into the far corner.

Barcelona's efforts at a reaction were stifled by Julio Cesar who kept out a tricky shot from Messi before saving Busquet's header at point-blank range.

Milito finally got the goal he deserved on 61 minutes, stealing in to head home Sneijder's headed assist from Eto'o's right-wing cross for his fourth goal in the Champions League.

In their urgency to reduce the arrears the visitors remained lively until the final whistle and Julio Cesar had more important saves to make. He made a diving block from Messi's curling free kick and slammed the door shut on Keita's long-range effort before saving Pedro's overhead kick.

On the one occasion he was caught out of position Inter had Lucio to thank for a last-gasp clearance from Piquè.

Inter could have scored a fourth on the counter-attack but Sneijder lost control of the ball with Balotelli lurking unmarked.

Inter 3-1 Barcelona (HT: 1-1)

Scorers: Pedro 19, Sneijder 30, Maicon 48, Milito 61.

Inter: 12 Julio Cesar; 13 Maicon (26 Chivu 73), 6 Lucio, 25 Samuel, 4 Zanetti; 19 Cambiasso, 8 Thiago Motta; 27 Pandev (5 Stankovic 56), 10 Sneijder, 9 Eto'o; 22 D.Milito (45 Balotelli 75).
Subs not used
: 21 Orlandoni, 2 Cordoba, 11 Muntari, 23 Materazzi.

: José Mourinho.

Barcelona: 1 Valdes; 2 Dani Alves, 3 Piquè, 5 Puyol, 19 Maxwell; 6 Xavi, 16 Busquets; 17 Pedro, 10 Messi, 15 Keita; 9 Ibrahimovic (22 Abidal 62). 

Subs not used
: 13 Pinto, 4 Marquez, 11 Bojan, 14 Henry, 18 G.Milito, 24 Tourè.
: Josep Guardiola.

Referee: Faustino Benquerença (Portugal).

Booked: Eto'o 12, Busquets 45+1, Puyol 51, Piquè 60, Keita 68, Stankovic 82, Dani Alves 83.

Att.: 79,609.

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