Inter Milan eased into the Champions League final with a 3-0 aggregate victory over AC Milan as Lautaro Martinez’s goal sealed a 1-0 second-leg win over their rivals at the San Siro.
Three-time winners Inter will now face either Real Madrid or Manchester City in Istanbul on June 10 in their first final appearance since 2010, when they beat Bayern Munich to lift the trophy.
Striker Martinez sealed their passage, beating AC Milan goalkeeper Mike Maignan with an angled finish in the 74th minute at a raucous San Siro, with Inter the designated home side at the stadium they share with their rivals having triumphed 2-0 as the away team in last week’s first leg.
AC Milan had some bright moments in the first half, with Brahim Diaz and the returning Rafael Leao spurning their best chances, but failed to even muster a shot on target in a one-sided second period as Simone Inzaghi’s side sealed an emphatic victory.
Inter Milan: Onana (7), Darmian (7), Acerbi (8), Bastoni (7), Dumfries (7), Barella (7), Calhanoglu (7), Mkhitaryan (6), Dimarco (7), Lautaro (8), Dzeko (6)
Subs: Brozovic (7), Lukaku (7), Gosens (6), Gagliardini (6), Correa (6)
AC Milan: Maignan (7), Calabria (6), Thiaw (7), Tomori (6), T Hernandez (6), Krunic (6), Tonali (7), Messias (5), Diaz (5), Leao (6), Giroud (6)
Subs: Kalulu (6), Origi (6), Saelemaekers (6)
Player of the match: Lautaro Martinez
How Inter ground AC Milan down
Inter threatened to blow AC Milan away in the opening stages of last week’s first leg, scoring both of their goals inside the first 11 minutes through Edin Dzeko and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, but this time Stefano Pioli’s side looked more threatening early on.
- Inter Milan boss Simone Inzaghi named an unchanged team from the first leg, with Edin Dzeko leading the line alongside Lautaro Martinez.
- AC Milan welcomed Rafael Leao back from injury, the Portuguese international joining Olivier Giroud and Brahim Diaz in attack.
Theo Hernandez gave Inter a scare when he fired inches over the bar from long range and Diaz then wasted a glorious opportunity when he shot too close to goalkeeper Andre Onana following a fine run and cut-back by midfielder Sandro Tonali.
Leao, back from a muscular injury having missed the first leg, also went close, accelerating away from Matteo Darmian and firing a low effort just past Onana’s left-hand post, but Inter generally managed the game well in the first half and had chances of their own up at the other end too.
Dzeko went closest, his flicked header from Hakan Calhanoglu’s free-kick requiring a smart reaction save from Maignan, who also denied Nicolo Barella, albeit with the Inter man in an offside position.
AC Milan needed to conjure up something special in the second half to have any chance of reaching their 12th final in their storied history, but they emerged from the break looking like a beaten side.
Inter held them at arm’s length without any problems, with AC Milan barely even featuring as an attacking force, and then, when the chance arrived to kill the contest, Martinez took it.
The Argentina international exchanged passes with substitute Romelu Lukaku inside the box, then shifted the ball onto his left foot and beat Maignan at his near post with a powerful finish.
Lukaku almost got in on the act in stoppage time, forcing a save from Maignan with another well-hit effort, but by then the Inter fans inside the San Siro had already begun their celebrations, the Champions League final beckoning.
Analysis: Can Inter trouble Man City or Real Madrid?
The short answer is yes. AC Milan offered meek resistance but both Carlo Ancelotti and Pep Guardiola will be under no illusions about the challenge that awaits in the final.
Inter’s defensive prowess has been evident throughout the tournament and it was there again across the two legs of this semi-final. Remarkably, they have kept 10 clean sheets in their 12 Champions League games so far.
Their back three is well-drilled and receives ample protection from Hakan Calhanoglu and Nicolo Barella, who, together with wing-backs Denzel Dumfries and Federico Dimarco, and playmaker Henrikh Mkhitaryan, also contribute offensively.
Indeed, while their main strengths lie at the back, and in the savviness of their game management, Inter are also well-stocked with attacking talent. Edin Dzeko and Lautaro Martinez are a formidable front two with an excellent understanding, while the in-form Romelu Lukaku, who set up Martinez’s winner, is another elite option waiting in the wings.
Simone Inzaghi’s side will go into next month’s final as underdogs, undoubtedly, but this performance, albeit against a poor AC Milan side, was just the latest reminder that they are not where they are by accident. It would be folly to underestimate them.
How the game played out
Inter Milan face a trip to newly-crowned Italian champions Napoli in Serie A on Sunday; kick-off 5pm.
AC Milan host Sampdoria at San Siro on Saturday in Serie A; kick-off 7.45pm.
Inter will face either Real Madrid or Manchester City in the Champions League final on June 10 at Istanbul’s Ataturk Olympic Stadium; kick-off 8pm.
AC Milan’s misery – Opta stats
- Inter have reached their sixth European Cup/Champions League final, but only their second in the last 50 years, alongside 2009/10 when they won the competition.
- Having progressed from nine of their first 10 European Cup/Champions League semi-final ties, Milan have since failed to reach the final in two of their last three semi-final appearances (also in 2005/06).
- Milan have failed to score in four consecutive meetings with rivals Inter for the very first time in their history, and have lost to them four times in a single campaign for just a second time (also 1973/74).
- Against no side in his Inter career has Lautaro Martinez netted more goals in all competitions than he has versus Milan (eight, level with Cagliari). Indeed, he is the top scorer against the Rossoneri since he joined Inter in 2018.
- Inter’s Lautaro Martinez has scored 25 goals in all competitions this season, his joint-most in a single campaign for the club (also 25 in 2021/22), while only Victor Osimhen (28) has scored more for Serie A clubs in 2022/23.