In a memorable comeback for Italian club football, former Premier League stars Edin Dzeko and Henrikh Mkhitaryan led Inter Milan to a commanding position in the Champions League semi-final.
The last European encounter between Inter and AC Milan in 2005 was marred by an abrupt end due to firework disruptions. However, this time around, the real fireworks were on the pitch, courtesy of Dzeko and Mkhitaryan, who, with a combined age of 71, scored within the first 11 minutes of the first leg.
The grand old rivals of Milan, boasting 10 European Cups, once owned the stage with their class and charisma, much like Denzel Washington on the silver screen. But Italian football, once the cream of the crop in Europe, had somewhat faded, with the last Champions League victory dating back to Jose Mourinho’s tactical marvel in 2010.
This semi-final marked a much-anticipated resurgence, rekindling the glory of the past, underscored by the early goals from Inter’s seasoned duo.
Despite his age, 37-year-old Dzeko, the ex-Manchester City striker, showed his enduring strength and technique. He silenced the home crowd by overpowering full-back Davide Calabria and launching a formidable volley into the net, straight from Inter’s first corner. The first significant open play from Inter led to the second goal, with 34-year-old former Manchester United and Arsenal winger Mkhitaryan firing past goalkeeper Mike Maignan.
AC Milan struggled to contain the onslaught, barely escaping a 15-minute knockout when Hakan Calhanoglu’s sublime shot hit the post.
The second half saw AC Milan pick up pace, but Inter continued their dominance with Dzeko nearly adding a second goal. Milan’s offensive play improved, but it was too late to overturn Inter’s early lead.
Both teams will return to their San Siro stadium for the second leg in two weeks. AC Milan, renowned for their defensive prowess, will need to reevaluate their strategy after this unsettling performance. Despite the uphill battle, they found a spark of offensive momentum in the second half which could be crucial for the rematch.
In contrast, Inter Milan will enter the game with a significant advantage, thanks to their veteran stars. Dzeko’s physicality and Mkhitaryan’s lethal finishing were a throwback to their Premier League days and a reminder of their enduring quality.
The early goals from Inter’s seasoned duo not only marked a dominant performance but also signified a resurgence of Italian club football on the European stage. The match was a testament that there’s still fire in the old guard, promising an exciting second leg of the semi-final.
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