By Adam Szreter in Milan
A goal from Andriy Shevchenko in first-half stoppage time effectively settled a famous Milanese semi-final and sent AC Milan through to the final of Europe's premier club competition for the ninth time. Despite an equaliser from 18-year-old Nigerian substitute Obafemi Martins ten minutes from the end, for Inter it was an uphill struggle after conceding the 'away' goal; but in terms of passion and commitment, it would be hard to imagine a finer example.
With both teams showing just one outfield change from the goalless first leg (Milan’s Brazilian goalkeeper Dida had succumbed to a finger injury), the hectic pace of the opening minutes promised much but once again chances were at a premium: a wayward shot from Gennaro Gattuso for Milan and one from Hernán Crespo for Inter that was on target but easily saved.
If Milan started the faster of the two, Inter, enjoying the majority of the support this time from another capacity crowd, were soon into their stride. Luigi Di Biagio won some important tackles in midfield and Crespo immediately looked far more of a threat than he had in the first game. Indeed, the Argentinian might have done better from Sergio Cõnceição’s low cross after Alessandro Nesta’s misjudgement.
Gattuso, meanwhile, was rallying to the cause for Milan in his usual bustling style, picking up a yellow card for his pains after team-mate Filippo Inzaghi had been the first to go into referee Gilles Veissière's notebook. Shortly afterwards Di Biagio and Rui Costa joined them, as the temperature rose on the pitch and the decibel levels were cranked up a notch inside the famous stadium.
As the first half wore on with no clear scoring chances, and just a couple of tame shots from Rui Costa, the sides seemed set to go in all square at the break. But during injury time, Shevchenko, whose place in the Milan starting lineup had been under threat, picked up a pass from Clarence Seedorf just inside the Inter area and somehow found a way past Iván Cordoba before lifting the ball over Francesco Toldo to break the deadlock.
Now needing his side to score twice, Inter coach Héctor Cúper wasted no time in making changes, bringing on Stéphane Dalmat for Di Biagio and replacing the ineffective Alvaro Recoba with Martins.
A combination of Dalmat and Javier Zanetti did well to win a free-kick on the left edge of the Milan area, which Emre drove hard and true but straight at Christian Abbiati in the Milan goal. Rui Costa made way for the more defensive-minded Massimo Ambrosini in Milan's midfield, and Emre then went close with another Inter free-kick.
Inter threw on Mohamed Kallon for Crespo but were restricted to half-chances and hopeful efforts, not only by the excellence of Milan's back four but by the likes of Seedorf and Gattuso working tirelessly to protect them. But with ten minutes to go, the hitherto faultless Paolo Maldini allowed Martins to get away from him on the edge of the Milan area and the youngster slipped the ball past Abbiati.
No late twist
However, despite a flurry of late corners and the presence of Toldo lurking in the Milan area, Inter were unable to find a second goal - ensuring their bitter rivals march on to Manchester to meet either Juventus FC or Real Madrid CF in the 28 May final.