Inter Milan beat fierce rivals AC Milan 1-0 in their Champions League semi-final second-leg encounter tonight to secure a place in the competition’s showpiece event in Istanbul.
They have reached the Champions League final for the first time since 2010 with a 3-0 aggregate victory over their Rossoneri counterparts.
Having secured a comprehensive 2-0 win in the first leg, Simone Inzaghi’s side only needed to weather the storm in this reverse fixture to reach their sixth European final, so it was no surprise that Milan got off to the better start on this occasion.
Rossoneri captain Theo Hernandez came agonisingly close to opening the scoring after five minutes with an audacious 40-yard effort that flew narrowly over the crossbar.
Needing an early goal to set the tone for the game, Stefano Pioli’s side continued to push for a lifeline, and Brahim Diaz came close, but his tame effort was not enough to beat Andre Onana after brilliant work from Sandro Tonali to tee him up.
Inter stood firm against the relentless pressure from Milan and started to threaten with an attacking barrage of their own, and they should have taken the lead, but Henrikh Mkhitaryan rifled his shot over the bar from Edin Dzeko’s cutback.
Both sides were evenly matched, but Inter was the happier team as the game progressed. However, the returning Rafael Leao came close to handing his side a lifeline in the 37th minute.
The Portuguese forward raced behind Matteo Darmian and glided past Francesco Acerbi but eventually dragged his left-footed shot just wide off the far post.
Inter then responded through Dzeko, who drew an incredible save out of Mike Maignan with a header before Lautaro Martinez sent a subsequent effort off target.
The opening period was a back-and-forth encounter between the San Siro rivals. While Inter maintained their 2-0 aggregate lead in the first half, they did not head into the interval unscathed, with Mkhitaryan forced off injured.
Inter were 45 minutes away from a chance at immortality, and they resorted to grit, resilience and organisation to keep the probing Milan out.
Inzaghi made the proactive move of replacing Dzeko with the in-form Romelu Lukaku, and the Belgian only needed eight minutes on the pitch to set up Martinez for the killer blow.
Both strikers combined as they have done so often this season – this time – to get goalside of Pierre Kalulu before Martinez unleashed a low shot past Maignan’s outstretched hand to put Inter ahead on the night and take the tie out of sight for Milan.
Martinez’s strike sent the Nerazzurri fans into a frenzy as Inter booked their tickets to the Champions League final in Istanbul with their fourth win over their San Siro counterparts this season and their ninth match unbeaten across all competitions.
Inzaghi’s side will now face an anxious wait to see who they will face for the European holy grail in June, with Manchester City and Real Madrid in action on Wednesday night.
Milan will hope they can rally to a place in Europe’s most prestigious tournament for next season after slipping to fifth place in the Serie A table, four points behind fourth-placed Lazio.